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The soprano Montserrat Figueras, one of the world’s top specialists in early music, dies aged 69

Married to viol player Jordi Savall, the Catalan Montserrat Figueras was one of the world’s most recognised experts and talented instrumentalists specialised in medieval music, as well as music from the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Together with Savall, they founded the groups Hespèrion XXI, the Capella Reial de Catalunya and the orchestra Le Concert des Nations. Figueras received many accolades, such as the ‘Officier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres’ in France and a Grammy Award.

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23 November 2011 06:49 PM

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ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- The soprano and instrumentalist Montserrat Figueras died early on Wednesday morning aged 69. Figueras, who was married to the viol player Jordi Savall, was one of the world\u2019s most recognised experts in early music, the Medieval times\u2019 music. She was a renowned singer but also a composer and researcher; she devoted her life to revitalising and investigating European music from the Middle Ages, as well as from the Renaissance and the Baroque periods. Her career was linked to that of her husband; together in 1974 they founded the group Hespèrion XX \u2013which later became Hespèrion XXI-. In the 1970s and early 1980s, the couple lived in Switzerland, as Jordi Savall was a lecturer at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, where they both studied. In the late 1980s, once back in Catalonia, the couple created the vocal ensemble the Capella Reial de Catalunya (in English the \u2018Royal Chapel of Catalonia\u2019) and the orchestra Le Concert des Nations, with instruments from the 17th century. They also started the music label Alia Vox. Montserrat Figueras, who became one of the world\u2019s top masters in early music vocal techniques, received many accolades, such as the \u2018Officier de l\u2019ordre des Arts et des Lettres\u2019 in France, Catalonia\u2019s \u2018Creu de Sant Jordi\u2019, or a Grammy Award together with Jordi Savall, for last year\u2019s best classical music disc. In addition, the album for the film \u2018Tous les matins du monde\u2019, composed by Savall and interpreted by Savall himself and Figueras, reached France\u2019s top spot in sales in 1991. The Catalan Culture Minister stated that both Figueras and Savall enabled people \u201Cto learn and appreciate the world\u2019s musical heritage\u201D with historical interpretations.


Born into a family of music lovers in Barcelona on March  1942, the life of Montserrat Figueras was intertwined with music and Jordi Savall. She started studying music in Catalonia, but moved to Switzerland to continue her studies at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis and Basel\u2019s Music Academy. There she met the Catalan viola da gamba player Jordi Savall and they started a professional and personal relationship. In her early years, Figueras collaborated with Enric Gispert and the Medieval music ensemble Ars Musicae.

For more than four decades, Montserrat Figueras and Jordi Savall have pursued an intense and recognised task of researching and revitalising music from the Middle Ages, as well as the Renaissance and the Baroque periods. They mainly investigated Catalan, Castilian, Italian, French, Portuguese and English music. Jordi Savall specialised in conducting and in playing the viola da gamba to become one of the world\u2019s most renowned players of this rare instrument. Montserrat Figueras developed her expertise in early music chant techniques, ranging from the troubadour times to the Renaissance, going to the Baroque. Both Figueras and Savall also earned a reputation as composers. Both their interpreting styles are famous for their historical accuracy, thanks to their knowledge and research of the original sources, combined with their expression and vitality. Figueras, like her husband, combined her career as that of a musician along with that of a researcher and teacher.

The Catalan Minister for Culture, Ferran Mascarell, expressed his sorrow before the Catalan Parliament. Mascarell defined Figueras as a reference point of \u201Crigour, professionalism and excellence\u201D, and stressed her deep knowledge of early music from Western Europe. He added that both Figueras and Savall enabled people \u201Cto learn and appreciate the world\u2019s musical heritage\u201D with historical interpretations. Her interpretation of Monteverdi\u2019s Lamento della Nimfa or the Cant de la Sibil·la (the Song of the Sybil) \u2013a traditional chant from Mallorca sung on Christmas eve and which deals with the apocalypse \u2013 are masterpieces in world music.

Montserrat Figueras received many prizes and awards throughout her career. A very special one was Catalonia\u2019s Creu de Sant Jordi (St. Jordi\u2019s Cross awarded by the Catalan Government), which she received this year for \u201Cher precious contribution to recuperating early music\u201D. Last year, Jordi Savall and Montserrat Figueras won a Grammy Award for the best classical music piece, with the book-CD \u2018Borgia Dynasty. Church and Power in the Renaissance\u2019.

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  • Montserrat Figueras and Jordi Savall when they received UNESCO's Artist for Peace recognition in 2008 (by ACN)

  • Montserrat Figueras and Jordi Savall when they received UNESCO's Artist for Peace recognition in 2008 (by ACN)