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  Alia Vox -
  AVSA9856 (2 discs)
  Francisco Javier: The Route to the Orient - Savall
  Francisco Javier: The Route to the Orient

Hesperion XXI
La Capella Reial de Catalunya
Jordi Savall
Track listing:

I. Birth and youth of Francis Xavier
1 ANON. Alba & Rotundellus
1506 Francis Xavier is born at the Castle of Xavier (Navarre)
2 P. DE ESCOBAR. Villancico: Virgen Bendita CMP 416
1509 Erasmus wrote his "Praise of Folly", dedicated to Thomas More
3 ANON. Consort XXI (Anon. Henry VIII mss.)
1512 Ferdinand II conquers Navarre and takes it from the French
4 J. PONCE, Villancico: Francia, cuenta tu ganancia CMP 443

II. Youth of Francis Xavier
1513 Machiavelli writes "The Prince"
5 ANON. Paduana (Mss. Venezia) 0
1516 Death of Ferdinand II of Catalonia-Aragon
6 ANON. Villancico: Dios te salve, Cruz preciosa (CMP 434)
Thomas More publishes his "UTOPIA"
7 J. LLOYD. Puzzle-canon I (Henry VIII mss.)
1517 Luther nails his 95 theses to the church door of Wittenberg Castle
8 H. ISAAC Song: O Welt, Ich muss dich lassen (sopra Innsbruck, Ich muss dich lassen)

III. Studies at the University of Paris (1525-1536)
1525 Battle of Pavia. Journey to Paris
9 Pavana "La Bataglia"
1528 Graduates from university. Meets Ignatius Loyola
10 CL. SERMISY Benedic Anima mea
1534 Conversion of Francis Xavier
11 Psalterio (improvisation)
12 O Gloriosa Domina I (Gregorian)
13 VENEGAS DE HENESTROSA. Himno XX O Gloriosa Domina
14 Quod Eva tristis (Gregorian II)
15 L. DE NARVAEZ. Diferencia II O Gloriosa Domina
16 Tu regis alti ianua (Gregorian III)
17 Improvisation (Psalterium)
1535 Henry VIII breaks with Rome and orders the execution of Thomas More
18 CH. TYE. In Nomine Seldom sene
Francis Xavier takes his first vows
19 ANON. Villancico: Adoramus te Señor (CMP 420)

IV. Italy and the Foundation of the Society of Jesus
1536 Journey to Basel, Lake Constance and Venice
20 H. ISAAC, Benedictus (a 3)
21 ANON. Saltarello (mss. Venecia)
1540 Pope Paul III approves the Society of Jesus (Bull Regimini Militantis Ecclesiæ)
22 C. DE MORALES. Sanctus
Francis Xavier is appointed Apostolic Nuncio in the East.
23 J. DEL ENCINA, Villancico: Pués que tu, Reyna del Cielo (CMP 442)

V. From Lisbon to Africa and India
1541 From Lisbon to Cape Verde, Guinea and Mozambique
24 Percussions from Africa. Dir. Lahoucine Baquir
25 Impressions. Driss El Maloumi (Oud)
1542 Arrival in Goa. Portuguese India
26 ANON. Villancico: Senhora del Mundo (CMBP’ Nº 74 PORTUGALIÆ MUSICA Nº 23)
1547-49 Missions in Malacca and the Moluccas
27 O Gloriosa Domina I (Gregorian)
28 Raga on O Gloriosa Domina


VI. A new world of culture. Arrival in Japan.
1549 Arrival in the city of Kagoshima
1 Shino no netori. Shinobue
Death of Pope Paul III
1550 Journey to the Imperial Court of Miyako (Kyoto)
3 Honnôji. Biwa & voice
1551 Sojourn in Yamaguchi and apostolate (Manuale ad Sacramenta)
O GLORIOSA DOMINA Oratio Christianorum Ocultorum)
4 Psalterium (impro.) O Gloriosa Domina I
5 O Gloriosa. Shakuhashi
6 Quod Eva tristis II
7 Improvisation I. Biwa & Shinobue
8 Tu regis alti ianua III
9 Improvisation II. Shakuhashi & Biwa
10 Patri sit Paraclito IV
11 O Gloriosa. Biwa
12 O Gloriosa Domina – Amen
1551 Journey to the kingdom of Bungo
13 Reibo, Shakuhachi
1551 November Departure from Japan, leaving behind a community of some 2000 Christians
14 F. DE LA TORRE. Villancico : Adoramus te Domine (CMP 444)

VII. Approaching the Closed Gates of China
1552 Returns to Goa. Journey to Malacca, Cochin and Singapore, en route to China
15 Improv. Senhora del Mundo Tablas & Sarod
1552 July Arrival in Sancian
16 Improvisation
17 O Gloriosa Domina Diferencia I (Vihuela)
1553 Dies on 3rd December off the coast of China (Island of Sancian)
18 C. DE MORALES. In Secundo Nocturno "Ne Recorderis"
1554 His body is taken first to Malacca and then to Goa
19 FANTASIA (Instrumental March)
1613 Japan breaks off all contact with the West
20 Rangyoku, Nokan
The enduring testament of Francis Xavier
21 ANON (CHINA) Ave Maria (pentatonic)
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Review by beardawgs January 21, 2008 (14 of 15 found this review helpful)
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Jordi Savall has got his winning formula well established by now. What he calls in his introduction as CD/Books are inspired collections of historical essays and musical excerpts, this time following life and travels of Francisco Xavier, Jesuit priest spreading Christianity to Far East. After success with music from Don Quixote Don Quijote de la Mancha - Savallanony and discovery of the new world in Christophorus Columbus Christophorus Columbus: Les Paradis Perdus - Savall The Route to the Orient is the most musically diverse similar issue from this source, boldly venturing into world music waters. Not a big surprise to those who follow Allia Vox label closely, but this time he pushed his own boundaries even further and with some amazing results.

The book first – Savall’s musical inspiration is inseparable from the much wider socio-historical background and rightly so. And if the music presented is an ‘educated guess’ research into the circumstances surrounding Francisco Xavier, analysis of his life and travels are extensive and comprehensive. The story begins with the birth of Protestantism, as wide as publishing of works by Erasmus and More, over Luther’s 95 Theses, Counter-Reformation and the Trent Council. Focusing then on the creation of the Jesuit Order and of course, Xavier’s travels to India and Japan and his death on a desolate island off the coast of China. It would take too much space and time on here analysing all what is written on those subjects, suffice to say that everything you need to know is explained and presented in unpretentious manner and simple language.

Music presented is as diverse as its historical and cultural sources. The unifying force is Marian Hymn ‘O Gloriosa Domina’ heard first in its original Chant-like form, and as Xavier progresses towards Goa (Portuguese port at the time) as Indian Raga, finishing as long improvisation on Japanese traditional instruments. Even if they might not be original compositions, there is a certain historical accuracy of such approach – Jesuits were heavily relying on music in spreading the word of Christ, allowing local population to use their own musical traditions and models, incorporating western religious music they brought in with them. Needless to say, Savall’s musicians are first-rate, I’m not an expert on Indian tablas and sarods, but I was swept away with the energy, precision and rhythmic accuracy on display here. Traditional Japanese instrumentalists are equally exceptional, though Japanese inspired music is of a more dream-like, fluid quality.

Disc 1 starts with familiar central European 16th century musical idioms of the age of Humanism, with slight detours to Henry VIII England, after we reach Xavier’s studies in Paris. Each track is geographically in tune with the social milestone – be it publication of a book or birth / death of a featured protagonist. Things heat up when we move to Africa with some fine examples of traditional drumming and end up with exciting and hair rising Indian variation on ‘O Gloriosa Domina’. Disc 2 is mainly concentrated on traditional Japanese music, interrupted with choral Invitatorium by Cristobal de Morales dedicated here to the death of Pope Paul III. The quality of performance by Capella Reial de Catalunya is of equally exceptional standard, so in pure musical terms this collection is as good as it can be for a such varied compilation of styles.

The recording is crystal clear and colourful, every nuance of strange sounds perfectly preserved, with plethora of drums and plucked instruments recorded with such a presence, close your eyes and they are in your room with you. Plenty of reverb creates a natural space, big and church-like ones for the choral numbers, slightly more focused and closer for purely instrumental ones. All in all, in every different aspect of production, this release from Alia Vox is terrific, and even if you’re not so keen on world music it does open many doors into the lesser known, historically, socially and culturally.

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