For listeners unconverted by the art of Jordi Savall, the enthusiasm with which his fervent fans have greeted his successive recordings has always seemed, to say the least, uncritical. After all, it seemed highly implausible that Savall's records could have steadily gotten better through his long career. How could his late-'70s recordings of Marin Marais' bass viole music have been bettered by his 1988 recording of Monteverdi's Vespers, then bettered again by his 1992 recording of Mozart's Requiem, then bettered again by his 1998 recording La Voix Humaines? And, the unconverted asked, how could Savall have again made a better record in this 2005 recording called Altre Follie with his chamber ensemble Hespèrion XXI featuring violinist Manfredo Kraemer?
All Savall's fervent fans could do was to point to the recording. The excellence of the music on the program is undeniable. Each Follie setting from the anonymous Peruvian composer's rhythmically infectious Folias criollas to the Venetian composer Antonio Vivaldi's violently virtuosic La Follia Sonata is more impressive than the last, their totality forming an organic unity in which the whole is far more than the sum of its parts. The beauty of the performances is incontestable. From the elegantly accomplished playing of Manfredo Kraemer through the supple théorbe playing of Rolf Lislevand and the blissful harp playing of Arianna Savall to the masterful viola da gamba playing of Jordi Savall himself, Hespèrion XXI is a group with an affectionate ensemble, an effortless virtuosity, and a warm and embracing humanity. For Savall's fervent fans, the easy intensity of their playing and the profound expressivity of their interpretations coupled with the superbly chosen programs are the qualities that have consistently if improbably enabled Savall to make better records. Alia Vox's sound captures the uncanny sense of real people performing in a real space in real time.