“Latino Ladino – Songs of Exile & Passion From Spain” – Ensemble Barrocade/ Ensemble NAYA – Naxos

“Latino Ladino – Songs of Exile & Passion From Spain” – Ensemble Barrocade/ Ensemble NAYA – Naxos 8.2, 66:54 (7-8-16) *****:

Unusual folkish music and poetry of Sephardic and other cultures of the 17th century.

Extraordinary stuff here, achingly personal and exquisitely lyrical. It’s music and poetry of numerous persecuted and exiled minority cultures that flourished throughout the Mediterranean and South America during the 17th century, the experience of these displaced communities retaining powerful resonance today. What makes this recording of these ancient reflections on beauty, love, joy and sorrow so profoundly expressive of basic human feelings and needs is the haunting voice and vulnerable phrasing of Yaniv d’Or’s haunting countertenor, backed by a folkish Baroque instrumental backdrop that suggests a Fellini fantasy.

Singing a deeply moving succession of the ancient story-telling songs linked to European ballad tradition called romancas, the narratives on cultural traditions such as holidays, food and scriptural stories, called coplas; and love songs in the lyric tradition called cantigas, d’Or shows why he has established an international reputation in music from Cavalli and Gluck to Henze and John Wolf Brennan.

The outstanding backing musicians, virtuosos steeped in history, represent an international polyglot: The Ensemble NAYA was formed at Gothenburg Opera in Sweden, in 2008; Barrocade, which bills itself as “the Israeli Baroque Collective,” was founded in 2007 by young musicians led by the splendid viola da gamba player Amit Tiefenbrunn.

Self-produced by d’Or in Saint Remigius Church, in the Belgian town of Franc-Waret, the sound has a perfumed, exotic impact that is indispensable to the music, a true audiophile experience. Richard Jones’ dense, absorbing notes are also drenched in poetry; speaking of the concluding wine song Damigella tutta bella (Damsel most beautiful), Jones writes about its composer Vincenzo Calestani, “who lived and worked in Pisa on Italy’s Mediterranean coast. The city’s Sephardic community fluctuated with periods of peace and persecution. Calestani did not travel, but his dancing, three-time, hemiola-rich, tambourine-punctuated song did, reminding its audiences of the good times which always, thank God, Jahweh and Allah, come again.”

—Laurence Vittes

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