8 Feb 2018

Jordi Savall’s musical time machine

From Upbeat, 1:15 pm on 8 February 2018

Jordi Savall is taking the audience time travelling during the New Zealand Festival.

Savall says music is a time machine, capable of transcending cultures, continents and history. He’s hoping to achieve that when he performs with his ensemble Hespèrion XXI and the Mexican Tembembe Ensamble Continuo, performing a programme called Folías Antiguas y Criollas, or From the Ancient World to the New World on February 24.

Jordi Savall

Jordi Savall Photo: Pedro Aguilar

The cellist turned viol player bridges the gap between old and new through thrumming melodies and infectious rhythms of conquistador Spain and the folk traditions of Latin America.

Originally it was thought that this early music – which Savall spent more than 10 years hunting out – was not meant to be played with emotion. But he says emotion is what music is all about. “Any music from any time uses human emotion to submit beauty and to explain emotions,” he says.

He hopes the audience at the NZ Festival will be transported back to the 17th century to feel the same emotions of those who were part of the audience back then. “The capacity of music … [it’s an] incredible time machine. We can travel to different continents and culture and also through time,” he says.

Savall is also dedicated to combining traditions of old and new, including reintegrating improvisational playing. “… in the modern classical world, we’ve lost the spirit of improvisation,” he says. “This is something we can do with this programme … we can recover the spirit of improvisation that was so important in early times.”

Although he’s only here in New Zealand for a fleeting moment, Savall says it’s important to hold onto the memory of music and enjoy the experience. “Music exists in the moment that we sing and we play,” he says. “[Memory is]… one of the most powerful things in the human lives.

“Music makes it possible to have not only the memory of today, but the memory of the past. Music is a living history of a human being.”

Jordi Savall with Hespèrion XXI and the Mexican Tembembe Ensamble Continuo performing Folías Antiguas y Criollas, or From the Ancient World to the New World on February 24 at the Michael Fowler Centre as part of the New Zealand Festival.