For all of Savall’s immersion in ancient manuscripts and archaic modes, the Catalan artist is no Luddite. He allies his reverence of the past to entrepreneurial forward-thinking. While most companies have bewailed the end of recorded classical music, his boutique label Alia Vox has sold more than 1 million copies of 40 titles in six years — figures that his competitors, corporate and independent alike, envy.
Moreover, Alia Vox recordings aren’t just shiny silver widgets sheathed in anonymous plastic; they are individual, gorgeous objets d’art, with not only audiophile sound but serious annotation and lavish packaging that bespeak passion more than profit. The repertoire ranges from medieval chant and folk-accented Renaissance song to the Baroque of Monteverdi, Biber, Lully, Couperin, Vivaldi and Bach. Then there are Savall’s specialties of the pan-European viola da gamba heroes — Marin Marais, Sainte Colombe, Tobias Hume and Alfonso Ferrabosco among them.
Since the concerts are during workweek days I won’t be able to attend, but right now I’m listening to the soundtrack of Tous Les Matins du Monde, a most depressing film with the most beautiful music. I had heard viola de gamba music before, but Savall’s performance in the soundtrack was a true revelation. In fact, the only time I’ve heard a film musical performance so extraordinary that I had to cath my breath was when I heard his Improvisations Sur Les Folies d’Espagne. (The movie was depressing when I saw it, and haven’t watched it again, but would definitely find it more depressing now, particularly in light of Guillaume Depardieu’s recent history — drug use, leg amputation after a motorcycle accident, etc.).