© 2022 KALW 91.7 FM Bay Area
KALW Public Media / 91.7 FM Bay Area
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

A Turkish Song of Serenity and Joy

Jordi Savall spends most of his time dusting off little-known music from around the time of J.S. Bach.
Jordi Savall spends most of his time dusting off little-known music from around the time of J.S. Bach.

Jordi Savall is the Yo-Yo Ma of the Viola da Gamba, an instrument that predates the modern-day cello. The Catalan musician spends most of his time dusting off little-known music from around the time of J.S. Bach. But for his new CD, Orient-Occident, Savall says goodbye to the baroque, picks up the ancient bowed lyre and gathers an outstanding team of Afghan, Moroccan, Israeli and Greek musicians. As Hesperion XXI, they weave together the Muslim, Christian and Jewish cultures that thrived around the Mediterranean in the 13th to 18th centuries. The traditional rebab (fiddle), oud and rubab (lutes), saz (guitar) and santur (hammered dulcimer) all play big roles in music that gently swings with off-kilter rhythms.

Savall's opening track, "Makam Rast Murass'a usul Duye," is a very old Turkish tune, with a jaunty rhythm and a slithering melody. Two ouds and the santur play the music in unison, with Savall hovering above, ornamenting the line with his lyre. The piece is written in the Turkish scale "rast," one that's meant to induce both joy and serenity.

Savall's East-meets-West project was inspired, he has said, by a search for a "spiritual antidote to the mounting, dramatic conflict of civilizations that erupted with the outbreak of war in Afghanistan" in 2001. Some of those same civilizations were in conflict back in 1453, when the fall of Constantinople severed ties between the cultures of the Orient and Occident. It's as if, with his new CD, Savall tries to rebuild those long-ago-broken bridges, if only musically.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tom Huizenga
Tom Huizenga is a producer for NPR Music. He contributes a wide range of stories about classical music to NPR's news programs and is the classical music reviewer for All Things Considered. He appears regularly on NPR Music podcasts and founded NPR's classical music blog Deceptive Cadence in 2010.