Hesperion Dos Equis Reissues
Few early music artists have as deep a discography as gambist Jordi Savall and his ensemble. Years ago the group was Hesperion XX, these days it’s Hesperion XXI. Who knows, in a few years it might be Hesperion XXI.1. Jordi and company just keep knocking out recordings. He made a huge number for the Astrée label and then launched his own Alia Vox label. One of the ensemble’s older efforts has turned up on the Ars Musici label.
Bohemian-born Andreas Hammerschmidt’s duties as kantor at the Johnanniskirche in Zittau—he was responsible for all the liturgical music— made him a prolific composer by necessity. Hammerschmidt (1611-1675) is probably best remembered for his sacred works which were inspired by the great Heinrich Schütz. Schütz even thought so highly of Hammerschmidt that he penned a laudatory poem for the preface of an edition of Hammerschmidt’s music. This recording (made in 1986) features Hesperion XX under Jordi Savall’s direction and presents another side of Hammerschmidt with a set of instrumental suites.
The suites on this recording were popular in their day and show a preference for the French forms that were the rage in the 17th century. Two of the suites are scored for viol consort, one for viols and winds and one for winds. This is refined music with fetching melodies and a stately grace. Savall and his consort of viols play beautifully with a marvelously rich, warm tone. The suites for winds feature the cornettist Bruce Dickey and other wind players who would join him in the ensemble Concerto Palatino. The contributions by Dickey and the wind players make for some of the most stirring music on the disc. This is a polite, well-performed recording of some pleasant but not revelatory music. Hammerschmidt’s music is solid but lacks the sweetness of the French music of the period and the pure invention that is animates the instrumental music of his Italian and German peers. If you are interested in hearing more from Hammerschmidt I would suggest going for the sacred music and the terrific collection of motets performed by Weser Renaissance led by Manfred Cordes on the CPO label.