Jordi Savall and Hesperion XXI treated the audience Thursday at the Folly
Theater to a cultural distillation with the group’s latest project, “Blood and
Honey: The Cycle of Life in the Mosaic of the Balkan People.”
Savall brought together an ensemble of international musicians, each
performing in a particular tradition from central sections of Europe and Asia.
The concert presented by the Friends of Chamber Music was impressive for the musicians’ virtuosity and for the scholarship, citing folk tunes and religious traditions transmitted orally or suppressed during the region’s tumultuous history.
The program examined the musical styles of the peoples who populated the Balkan region, as well as the religious influences of Christianity, Sephardic Judaism, and Islam. Projected supertitles offered translations.
The concert featured similarly structured works, with undulating accompaniment primarily from santur and morisca (Dimitri Psonis) and oud (Yurdal Tokcan), supporting melodic exchanges with the vocalists. Two seamless hour-long
portions, with instrumental pieces and interludes between, enhanced the attitude of collaboration.
Yet these elements served more to illuminate the distinctions of style and tone qualities, not blend them. The vocalists, Stoimenka Outchikova-Nedialkova (in ethnic Bulgarian dress), Marc Mauillon, Lior Elmaleh, Gursoy Dincer and
Irini Derebei, had markedly different approaches: wide, bright timbres versus rounded, nasal resonances versus throaty, fluid lines versus sharp, piercing wails.
This created exciting contrasts, from the “tra las” of the Greek/Turkish “Tillirkotissa,” the amusing Cypriot dance “Koniali,” or the enthusiastic choruses for the Romany “Duy, duy, duy denomori deshudui.”
The instrumentalists were soloists, too, as well as accompanists. Especially impressive were Bulgarian Nedyalko Nedyalkov’s technique on the kaval, a shepherd’s eight-holed flute, the glistening glissandi from Turk Hakan Gungor’s zither-like qanun and the range of colors Spaniard David Mayoral elicited from his collection of hand drums and tambourines.
In a dramatic moment, the house lights dimmed as bells pealed onstage, a spotlight revealing baritone Mauillon and duduk player Haig Sarikouyoumdjian in a balcony to perform the chant “En to stavro pares tosa.” The flowing line was supported by the impossibly held, almost imperceptible low tones of the duduk, followed by a pensive, otherworldly duduk solo.
The final section, “(Re)conciliation,” created a medley of five similar tunes from various traditions, highlighting each musician, ending with everyone performing simultaneously for an amalgam of heritages
Read more here: