Jordi Savall turns the Early Music Festival of Poblet Monastery into a great success
Held in UNESCO’s World Heritage Poblet Monastery, the first edition of the Festival of Ancient Music was a sell-out, and will have a second edition next year, according to the organisers. The Festival was launched by the Catalan conductor, interpreter, composer and researcher Jordi Savall, who in 2012 received the Léonie Sonning Prize, considered Music’s equivalent of the ‘Nobel Prize’. The event aimed “to compensate” for the lack of such music festivals in southern Catalonia and also to honour the memory of soprano Montserrat Figueras, who died in November 2011. Figueras was one of the greatest vocalists and experts in Early Music and Savall’s life partner. The first edition of Poblet Festival included 3 concerts by Jordi Savall, all played within the monastery’s church, which is the location of the most of the tombs of the old Catalan kings.
Poblet (ACN).- The first edition of Poblet Festival of Early Music ended last Saturday being a sell-out with an attendance of 2,000 people. Considering the great success of the Festival, organisers have confirmed a second edition, which might be larger than this year’s event. Held in UNESCO’s World Heritage Poblet Monastery (located halfway between Tarragona and Lleida), the Festival was created by the Catalan conductor, interpreter, composer and researcher Jordi Savall, who in 2012 received the Léonie Sonning Prize, considered Music’s equivalent of the ‘Nobel Prize’. The event aimed “to compensate” for the lack of music festivals in southern Catalonia, promote Early Music, and also honour the memory of soprano Montserrat Figueras, who died in November 2011. Figueras was one of the greatest vocalasts and experts in the genre of Early Music and was Savall’s life partner. The first edition of Poblet Festival contained 3 concerts by Jordi Savall and his ensembles. They took place on the 15th, 16th and 17th of August and were played within the monastery’s church, which is the location of most of the tombs of the old Catalan kings. The first concert was devoted to songs from the time of William Shakespeare and interpreted by Savall’s Le Concert des Nations orchestra. The second night focused on Sainte-Colombe and Marin Marais’ works, interpreted by Jordi Savall and his viola da gamba. The Festival ended with a concert with the voices of the Capella Reial de Catalunya and the music of Hesperion XXI, both ensembles created by Savall and Figueras.
The Festival of Ancient Music of Poblet will have a second edition in 2014, which might have more concerts than the first one. Lluís Poca, one of the organisers, explained that considering “the great success”, next year’s festival might be “larger”. Poca linked the audience’s response to “maestro Savall – who is a flagship within Early Music – and the location of Poblet Monastery, a unique space, and symbol of the cultural, architectonic and spiritual heritages of southern Catalonia”. In fact, the event was created with the aim of becoming a milestone festival in South Catalonia, which does not have as many music festivals as the areas of Barcelona or the Costa Brava.
A festival created by Jordi Savall
The Festival was promoted by the foundation created by Jordi Savall and Montserrat Figueras, the International Ancient Music Centre Foundation (CIMA), Savall himself and the Monastery of Poblet. The CIMA Foundation’s aim is to promote the universal heritage of the music from medieval, Renaissance and Baroque times, particularly from Hispanic and Mediterranean areas. The Festival’s first edition had a budget of 100,000 euros and was sponsored by several public institutions and private companies. In fact, around 60% of the budget came from private companies. Tickets for each of the three concerts were offered at a price between 25 and 35 euros.
A tribute to Montserrat Figueras
Whilst promoting Early Music and filling a musical gap in southern Catalonia, the festival was also paying tribute to the soprano Montserrat Figueras, who had a unique voice and was probably the world’s most recognised vocalist specialising in the medieval and Renaissance periods. The festival’s first edition was called ‘Les mil i una nits de música. Memorial Montserrat Figueras’ (in English, ‘The one thousand and one nights of music. Tribute to Montserrat Figueras’). The Catalan soprano died from cancer in November 2011, aged 69.
The festival’s first edition contained 3 concerts played in Poblet Monastery’s church, where most of the Catalan Kings are buried. The first one was held last Thursday, with a programme linked to William Shakespeare’s poetry, with works from two English Baroque composers from the 17th century: Matthew Locke and Henry Purcell. The English songs and dances were played by Jordi Savall’s viol and the Concert des Nations orchestra, and conducted by the Catalan maestro himself. In addition, the actors Josep Maria Pou and Sílvia Bel recited some poems in front of some 200 spectators.
On Friday night, Jordi Savall offered an intimate concert, where the world’s number one viol interpreter offered works from the 17th century French masters: Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe and Marin Marais. The concert was delicate and enchanting, with Savall’s viola da gamba resounding against Poblet’s stone walls. The festival ended on Saturday with a concert focusing on two works particularly beloved by Montserrat Figueras: the ‘Cantigas the Santa Maria’ (Canticles of Holy Mary) – religious songs from the 13th century devoted to the Virgin Mary and written in the Galician-Portuguese language, attributed to King Alfonso X – and the ‘Llibre Vermell de Montserrat’ (‘The Red Book of Montserrat’), a Catalan codex from the late 14th century with songs from the Montserrat Abbey. Figueras’ performances of songs from both compilations are a milestone in Early Music. The Capella Reial de Catalunya and the Hesperion XXI ensembles – both founded by Savall and Figueras – played the works, directed by Savall himself, in the full to capacity Poblet Church’s central naive in front of 600 people.