This disc of Iberian and Latin American Renaissance music is a reissue cleverly disguised as a new release. It compiles music from several recordings by Catalonian visionary Jordi Savall, his luminous-voiced collaborator Montserrat Figueras, and his Hesperion XXI and Capella Reial de Catalunya ensembles, dressing them up with a new set of rather philosophical booklet notes on themes of change, of intercultural tolerance, and of the evolving nature of Christianity in the Iberian realm and in New Spain. Some might call this a cynical ploy, but actually Savall has always been moving in a circle, so to speak, spiraling inward toward a deeper musical understanding of the historical themes touched on here: the lingering effects of the legacy of medieval Iberia and its "mestissage" or mixture of cultures, the reign of Holy Roman Emperor Charles (Carlos) V (did you know that he was both the first monarch to be called "His Majesty" and the first to be honored with the claim that the "sun never set" on his empire?), and the relationships between cultivated and popular styles, both in Iberia and the New World.
So, the presentation of the disc feels like just a revisitation to some favorite spots on Savall's part, with new thoughts on the music included in the notes by Savall and by Juan Lucas. Whatever one thinks of the overarching "Old Christians: Mythology and Mysticism" and "New Christians: Mixture and Fervor" classifications that have been added here, the individual selections are gorgeous. The Sibil la Valenciana of Alonso and Bartomeu Càrceres is one of Savall's great Catalonian reconstructions, a magnificently simple and gloomy choral setting of passages of Sibyllline prophecy, with Figueras featured prominently in solo parts. Josquin's chanson Mille regretz (A Thousand Regrets) is presented along with three Spanish works based on it, with all the music related to the claim of lutenist-composer Luis de Narváez that Mille regretz was the favorite composition of Charles V, who, with a thousand regrets, renounced his throne and empire. The second part of the program, drawn from Savall's Villancicos y danzas criollas disc, contains festive semi-sacred works from the New World (mostly Mexican), several of them with an African influence. This disc might serve well as an introduction to Savall, or to where he is today for those who already know his work.