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Jordi Savall and Hespèrion XXI

Musica Nova: Venetian Influences in Musical Europe
Sunday, February 12, 2017 3 PM Zankel Hall
One of early music’s living legends, Jordi Savall leads his ensemble Hespèrion XXI in Venetian instrumental music—some based on older dance tunes and popular songs—from the 16th and 17th centuries. Composers of these works—including Andrea Gabrieli, Giovanni Gabrieli, Marini, and Merula, among others—heralded a new era of instrumental brilliance where melodic beauty was married to daring explorations of harmony, rhythm, and form. The influence of this inventive music from Venice—in which instrumental voices often intertwine, imitate, and soar—spread outward across Europe to France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, and England.


Hespèrion XXI
··Jordi Savall, Director and Treble Viol
··Philippe Pierlot, Alto and Bass Viol
··Imke David, Tenor Viol
··Lorenz Duftschmid, Bass Viol
··Xavier Puertas, Violone
··Xavier Díaz-Latorre, Theorbo and Guitar
··David Mayoral, Percussion


ANON. Pavana del Re

ANON. Galliarda "La Traditora"

ANON. Pavana "El Todescho"

ANON. Saltarello

MAINERIO “Ungaresca” from Il primo libro de balli

PARABOSCO Ricercare à 4, "Da pacem"

GRILLO Capriccio No. 5

A. GABRIELI Ricercar No. 7

DOWLAND "Lachrimae pavan"

DOWLAND "The King of Denmark, his Galliard"

GIBBONS "In nomine à 4"

BRADE "Ein Schottisch Tanz"

ANON. Pavane "La petite guerre" et Gaillarde

L. ROSSI Fantaisie "Les pleurs d'Orphée" from L'Orfeo

L. ROSSI Sarabande "A l'impero d'amore"

ANON. Bourée d'Avignonez

GUAMI Canzon No. 7, "La Cromatica"

GUAMI Canzon No. 4, "Sopra la battaglia"

SCHEIDT Paduan à 4, No. 5

SCHEIDT Courant dolorosa à 4

SCHEIDT Alamande à 4

SCHEIDT Galliard battaglia à 5

MARINI Passacalio à 4

LEGRENZI Sonate à 4, No. 6 from La cetra, Sonate à 2—4, Book IV

SAN LORENZO Folia on the First Tone, No. 10

ANON. "Canarios"
Improvisation on "Canarios"

VALENTE "Galliard"
Improvisations on Valente


BRADE "Der Satyrn Tanz" (XVIII) from Newe ausserlesene Paduanen, Galliarden, Canzonen, Allmand und Coranten … auff allen musicalischen Instrumenten lieblich zu gebrauchen, a 5

SCHEIN Suite No. 6 à 5 in A Minor from Banchetto musicale

Event Duration

The printed program will last approximately two hours, including one 20-minute intermission.

La Serenissima: Music and Arts from the Venetian Republic is sponsored by Chubb.

The Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism has granted La Serenissima: Music and Arts from the Venetian Republic its official support (“Patrocinio”) in recognition of Carnegie Hall’s celebration of Italy’s extraordinarily rich cultural legacy.

Carnegie Hall gratefully acknowledges the support of the Ministry of Heritage and Culture and Tourism in Rome; the Embassy of Italy in Washington, DC; and the Consulate General of Italy in New York.

Musica Nova: Venetian Influences in Musical Europe

Venice saw its largest territorial expansion in the 15th century, and it was just as this process was beginning to wane that the city became a leading center for culture and arts. The government of La Serenissima achieved a remarkable degree of social peace, and—thanks to its atmosphere of tolerance—the Republic attracted a large number of printers, including music publishers, who fostered the development of autonomous forms of artistic thought. In the case of music, this process found fertile soil at St. Mark’s Basilica: Built and rebuilt in what could be considered a Latinization of the Byzantine style, with its cruciform ground plan based on the Greek cross covered with cupolas, it became an ideal place for musical experimentation and the epicenter of what became known as the Venetian School, founded by Flemish composer Adrian Willaert. A certain decline in the city of Rome following its sack in 1527 also contributed to the emergence of Venice as an artistic powerhouse, a position that was to last until the 18th century.

At the same time, the 16th century gave rise to a new awareness of instrumental music; until that time, purely instrumental music had been either dance music or a (re)interpretation of the vocal repertory. For the first time, large quantities of music were composed to be played rather than to be sung.

These developments led to the invention of numerous new instruments: plucked and bowed strings, as well as brass and woodwinds. The influence of vocal polyphony, however, was formidable and shaped the early stages of instrumental music in at least two ways. First of all, many of the new instruments were conceived and built in a range of sizes and tunings, which allowed polyphonic compositions to be performed using ensembles of instruments with a homeogeneous timbre, thus imitating vocal choirs. The most prolific case of such consort music was written for the viola da gamba.

Second—although chronologically first—vocal music genres provided the starting point for new musical genres even when they were conceived as instrumental from the very beginning. Dance music, however, was an exception. It was widespread practice to perform pairs of dances in which a slow, binary dance was followed by a quick dance in ternary form, thus laying the foundations for the suite.

The composers of this newly invented instrumental music faced the challenge of composing in the absence of a text, which had provided the formal structure of vocal music. The terms ricercare, fantasia, capriccio, and canzona, among others, were used—often interchangeably—to refer to musical genres with a contrapuntal and frequently imitative texture, reminiscent of the vocal music that served as their model. In other cases, a low-pitched melody known as a “ground bass” provided a guiding thread for improvisation and variations, a modus operandi that furnished instrumental compositions with the necessary structure and the dimensions required.

Most of the composers featured in this concert have links with the city of Venice. Parabosco studied in the city under Willaert. Andrea Gabrieli, Giovanni Battista Grillo, Gioseffo Guami, Biagio Marini, and Giovanni Legrenzi worked at St. Mark’s. The others offer interesting examples of how this style became influential in other contexts.

—Josep Maria Vilar
(Translation by Jacqueline Minett)


Jordi Savall

For more than 50 years, Jordi Savall-one of the most versatile musical personalities of his generation-has rescued musical gems from the obscurity of neglect and oblivion and given them back for all to enjoy. A tireless researcher of early music, he interprets and  ...

For more than 50 years, Jordi Savall-one of the most versatile musical personalities of his generation-has rescued musical gems from the obscurity of neglect and oblivion and given them back for all to enjoy. A tireless researcher of early music, he interprets and performs the repertory both as a gambist and as a conductor. His activities as a concert performer, teacher, researcher, and creator of new musical and cultural projects have made him a leading figure in the revival of historical music. Together with his wife Montserrat Figueras (1942-2011), he founded the ensembles Hespèrion XXI (1974), La Capella Reial de Catalunya (1987), and Le Concert des Nations (1989). Across all ensembles, he explores and creates a world of emotion and beauty shared with millions of early music enthusiasts around the world. 

Mr. Savall has recorded and released more than 230 albums covering the Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical styles, while giving special focus to the Iberian and Mediterranean musical heritage. His work has merited many distinctions, including the Midem Classical Award, International Classical Music Award, and multiple Grammy Awards. His concert programs use music as a form of mediation to achieve understanding and peace between different--and sometimes conflicting--peoples and cultures. Accordingly, guest artists appearing with his ensembles include Arab, Israeli, Turkish, Greek, Armenian, Afghan, Mexican, and Native American musicians. In 2008, Mr. Savall was appointed European Union Ambassador for intercultural dialogue and, together with Ms. Figueras, was named an Artist for Peace as part of the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador program.

Jordi Savall's prolific musical career has brought him the highest national and international distinctions, including honorary doctorates from universities in Évora (Portugal), Barcelona (Catalonia), Louvain (Belgium), and Basel (Switzerland), the title of Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur (France), the Praetorius Music Prize awarded by the Ministry of Culture and Science of Lower Saxony, the Gold Medal of the Generalitat of Catalonia, and the prestigious Léonie Sonning Music Prize.

Hespèrion XXI

Early music's most important value stems from its ability, as a universal language, to transmit feelings, emotions, and ancestral ideas that can enthrall the contemporary listener even today. With a repertoire that encompasses the period between the 10th and 18th centuries, Hespèrion XXI searches continuously for new points of union between the East and West, with a clear desire for integration and for the recovery of an international musical heritage, especially that of the Mediterranean basin and its links to the New World.

In 1974, Jordi Savall and Montserrat Figueras, together with Lorenzo Alpert and Hopkinson Smith, founded the early music ensemble Hespèrion XX in Basel to help recover and disseminate the rich and fascinating musical repertoire that originated prior to the 19th century. The name Hespèrion means "an inhabitant of Hesperia," which in ancient Greek referred to the two most westerly peninsulas in Europe: the Iberian and the Italian. It also was the name given to the planet Venus as it appeared in the west. At the turn of the 21st century, Hespèrion XX became Hespèrion XXI.

Today, Hespèrion XXI is a central ensemble for the understanding and performance of the music from the Middle Ages to the Baroque. Its efforts to recover works, scores, instruments, and unpublished documents have double value. On one hand, its rigorous research provides new information and understanding about the historical knowledge of the period, and on the other hand, the exquisite performances enable people to freely enjoy the aesthetic and spiritual delicacy of the works of this period.

Right from the beginning, the members of Hespèrion XXI set out on a clearly innovative and artistic course that would lead to the establishment of a unique school of thought  in the field of early music because they believed--and continue to believe--that early music is an experimental musical tool. With it, they seek the maximum beauty and expressiveness in their performances. All musicians in the field of ancient music have a commitment to the original spirit of each work, connecting with it by studying the composer, the instruments of the period, the work itself, and the circumstances surrounding it. But as craftsmen in the art of musical performance, musicians are also obliged to make decisions about the piece being played: Their capacity to connect the past with the present and to connect culture with its dissemination depends on skill, creativity, and facility for transmitting emotions.

Thanks to the outstanding work of numerous musicians and collaborators who have worked with the ensemble, Hespèrion XXI continues to play a key role in the recovery and reappraisal of early music. The group has released more than 60 recordings and appears regularly at acclaimed international festivals.

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