We have few records to accompany us all along our lives.
Ones which I take off the shelf blind and I’m ready to comment on them any time of the day or night for just talking about them makes me feel fine.
Such CD is the record of Savall’s Ortiz one which set the bar so high that the rest deserves no mention, especially for no selection dedicated to Ortiz has been released.
It’s been the case up to now.
Alpha has recently brought out a new CD.
It’s a new Ortiz record.
Its outlook, the artwork is the new Alpha following today’s trends; it’s refined, however, you’d better not try to find the visual culture of the old Alpha records.
The inside, the music is a different story indeed.
Trattado de Glosas.
It’s actually a schoolbook.
Gitároskönyv. [A very popular book for learners of the guitar in Hungary]
Of viola da gamba from 1553.
The book teaches you what and how you should do. It demonstrates, educates, illustrates and exemplifies. It actually gives encouragement for the freedom of expression that the faithful rendering of the notes should mean other than the essence but it ought to be the first step only. Just like the competence in using letters should only be the base when, for instance, you write a poem.
In the case of musicians the intention and the message are obvious enough.
What about us, the listeners?
It’s clear-cut for us too. It does the same as all great masterpieces: it finely compels you to make a standpoint or manifestation. It gets you to reveal your soul, however, to what extent it proceeds inside or outside or in both directions will be different for each of you.
We’re familiar with the music. The great hits of the Renaissance are coming one after the other. Obviously, the common lines now are the glosados and the diferencias – there seems to be some important thing here; so grave that the CD was released just for them.
You certainly get to the issue of the variations and repetitions.
The monotony ensures a sort of safety and reliability. It’s not like – hundreds of years later in a symphony – that all of a sudden something completely different is coming in a next beat. Nope, here there’s the magic of permanence.
Which may be the same as the delight of frolic within certain limits.
The Limits of Control?
What’s the additional sorcery?
What is unique in these simple variations the bulk of which is heard in the overplayed pieces whistled in the streets even today?
To answer these questions is rather complicated.
It’s so complex that even the majority of the musicians cannot catch what’s going on here. They say ‘Yah, Ortiz’ with a fine ascending tone; 'well, yes, it’s not a very complex music, (means ‘poor’), the harmonies are simplistic, yet, there’s some beauty in them'. Then they take their instruments to play a recercada and it’s going to be just the same as they foretold. It’s poor and monotonous and it’s for school kids. They may have listened to the record of Savall but they inly and deeply don’t understand what makes it so good, so extremly good, what is it that makes you pant and love and be keen on and keep the dedicated edition in a safe.
And what is it that makes their music:
and of no weight,
and no sense
and no any spirit,
and, no real music.
Youtube is full of these. The scarce exceptions glitter like tiny stars.
Savall stands out intensely for he plays in a weird way; sort of ornamentation-metaphysics; masterly handling of the instruments and much deep background content. It’s so good that releasing the same music was brevity indeed.
Cocset and Co. are running on a different trail in this record. No rivalry whatsoever for the mode is so diverging.
What strikes the ear is that the playing is more straightforward. It’s not that ornament-oriented; he doesn’t wish to be an eminent learner of the guitar. Today, in the era of prestige-complications first you don’t comprehend it much.
But then something takes place like when you stop under a blooming tree.
A new world is unfolding slowly and nicely.
More and more details are coming out.
Arcs are shaping.
And once something opens up like in the Szék [a village in Transylvania] folk song:
'The Sky has opened up in three'.
And the viola da gambas start to speak. Indeed, they do make the violas speak. At some places they are so expressive that you shiver.
They’re telling you something important.
What is it?
Well, the answer will not come as the crow flies. No any stable lighthouse in the horizon.
For the spoken and written languages differ from the music very much here, the morphology and the system of rules, the history, its living nature and meta-content are simply not enough.
Something is intensely leaking from the proto-language. You might, of course, grope in complex transfers, periphrases, feelings and association of ideas; moreover, in the private sphere they make the direct translation into words impossible with a despairing diversification.
Perhaps good poems resist the central analyses in a similar way.
The record is on and you realise that the main point is not the melody or the harmony or the right-played notes or the rhythm or the dynamics or the counter-points of the parts.
Nor even the improvisation.
The point is what’s going on with you – the way we take a glass of wine or a cup of coffee afterwards, how your speech and intonation alter a bit, how you perceive the colours.
How your eyes flash when hearing the question: 'Well, how do you like the new Ortiz record?'.
Truly, the sounding is an intense part of the above. Alpha has been eaten up by Outhere; the artwork team has probably been working elsewhere since then but the sound engineer who conceived the transferring of the project into sounds, Hugues Deschaux has luckily remained and the CD bears the traces of his hand; his enthusiasm and homage to the tones of the instruments and the greatness of the selected acoustic ground.
A part of the instruments were manufactured right for this Ortiz recording. One has a nicer tone than the other. Among them there’s traditional, finely coarse gamba sound and there’re some as big as a contrabass whose overwhelming orotundity is simply enthralling.
Of the performers Cocset and Balestracci alternate in the centre; I myself can hear a lot fewer differences in their way of delivery than usually in their other records.
For they have similar thoughts about all this.
For both love Ortiz.
And they don’t say it or write it down but make a record like this.
The CD has been on for days.
It has captured me. I reread what I have written above and I can see that it doesn’t really turn out why.
Then I carefully try to find a place for it on the shelf. It’s going to be placed among the elite records – I knew it when I sniffed into the cover while ripping the foil off.
Beforehand, I put the last number on.
The atmosphere is so intensive that I keep asking my friends to recall what few words come to their minds – and they list a lot. I am happy to hear that the CD stirred them too.
The start is the finest consort-style; then they cheat with the beat a bit like the manual hurdy-gurdy of the Wurlitzer; it keeps speeding up and slowing down there and back, dancing, whirling, market, then the prairie wagon is leaving and vanishes in the distance of the centuries.
* * *
Translated by Kenesei Andrea
Thank you for the pictures.