The Catalonian ensemble leader Jordi Savall and his bands of singers and musicians have tended to perform and record the music of southern Europe, with its rich multi-ethnic character. Here, however, in core Italian and central European repertory, they yield to no one with their deep contextual approach. Indeed, such an approach works especially well with Heinrich (or Henricus) Isaac, who traveled among several key musical capitals, and whose career intersected the great events of the age, including the heyday of the Medici family, their temporary eclipse by their fundamentalist nemesis, Savonarola, and, almost, the posting of Martin Luther's 95 theses. The last of these occurred several months after Isaac's death, but Savall realizes that Isaac's music outlived him: his famous and lovely German lied, Innsbruck, ich muß dich lassen (Innsbruck, I must leave you), was quickly adopted among Protestants as O Welt, ich muß dich lassen (O world, I must leave you), and both versions are included here. Elsewhere there are large ceremonial motets (with a good-sized choir), mostly accompanied as they would have been for festive occasions, secular pieces, a battle piece, and works that show Isaac's peculiar genius, all of them tied into the wider history. One of Savall's more sumptuous booklets is included, with essays by Savall (noting Anton Webern's important role in the rediscovery of Isaac's music) and Stefan Gasch, and in all, the recording is exemplary in terms of demonstrating how Renaissance music was part of a wider cultural system, as well as simply realizing its beauties. Another Savall triumph.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Motet from the cycle Choralis Constantinus|
|Missa Virgo prudentissima|