Of the mighty series of recordings by Catalonian gambist and conductor Jordi Savall and his associated Capella Reila de Catalunya and instrumental group Hesperion XXI, this is among the most impressive. Savall's method is to use music to illuminate vast swaths of historical event and theme, and he has rarely been so ambitious and so successful as he is here. His topic is the Dinastia Borja, or the House of Borgia, who emerged in the 14th century from Savall's home ground of Valencia to play a dominant role in Italian ecclesiastical and political life for two centuries. The Borgias were politically skilled, but their true genius, much like figures of modern entertainment, lay in their ability to generate and control a fascinating atmosphere of sexuality, intrigue, and corruption, "the fatal power of legend," as the 300-page booklet puts it. The program of the three CDs spans a few hundred years, and it is divided thematically into these categories: "The origins and rise of the Borgia family," "The demise of the three cultures and the conquest of power: the Vatican," "The culmination and end of a dream," "The age of upheavals and Humanism: the Sibyl and the Prophecies of the Book of Revelation," "Battles and truces; military and political responsibilities," "Renunciation and spiritual transformation," and "Final years, death and canonization of Francisco de Borja." All of these things are reflected in the musical genres of the day, which have very rarely come alive as they do here. There is no space to enumerate the musical-historical linkages Savall and his troupe explore, but suffice it to say that a college course on the Borgias or the Italian Renaissance that used this recording as a text would make a deeper impression than probably any other one out there. Not to be missed.