Review of Secret History Josquin / Victoria by John Potter, ECM, 2017
I bought this record because I was very interested about listening to the three vihuelas of Ariel Abramovich (tenor and bass vihuelas), Jacob Heringman (tenor and bass vihuelas) and Lee Santana (alto and tenor vihuelas) playing togheter. Although this blog is mainly devoted to contemporary music, I don’t regret any incursion in baroque and renaissance music. There are several things that fascinate me in this musical world: the elegant beauty of their melodies, their formal refinement, the wide spaces left to the interpreters who find themselves working on tablatures rather than on the scores, the possible implications of a music which is divided between a close philological recovery and the possibilities offered by new and boldest interpretations.
Yes. It’s basically a hidden secret, a Secret History, that can be rewritten each and every time in different and innovative ways. The ECM record company has long opened a record line dedicated to these genres, releasing space for bolder and more contemporary interpretations. In this sense, it’s difficult to give a formal opinion on these music: what kind of interpretative vision could I use to better define them? If I limit myself to considering their music, their art as a form linked to the Greek mimesis, I should consider their will to represent reality and their social function, but this at a time when their function is now exhausted. If I considered the interpretation of ancient music as a way of projecting it into the present, I would talk about a radical conservation strategy of a text too precious to let it grow old after a dusty glass or about a distortion of the text, its alteration decided by the interpreter, his adaptation to a new society and a new era.
But I think I have exaggerated. After all, I would not want to stain excessive aesthetic intellectualism. The truth is that these music, beyond any possible way of interpreting and analyzing them, communicate great emotions and great poetry. The musicians are really good and they know how to create a kind of “suspended time” where it’s easy to let go and neglect everyday life. Last time I had these impressions was listening to the Hilliard Ensemble’s record, that one played with Jan Garbarek, Officium, that I had no way of feeling anything like that, though not as radical. A great job, even for a non-insider like me.