Jordi Savall’s AliaVox label puts out the most gorgously-packaged discs of any label, with loads of information and color photos in the note booklet – in this case a 64-page beauty. Even though I’m not that heavily into early music AliaVox’s presentation is so compelling that I find I at least check them out before passing on to reviewers who specialize in this area. This one I felt I couldn’t part with.
The fascinating essay lays the groundwork for the theme of this collection with a discussion of the political and cultural climate in Europe in the fifteen and sixteenth centuries. It talks about the popularity of courtly dances in the aristocratic courts of the various countries, and zeroes in on the Folia – which began as a coarse and noisy peasant dance and had such fame throughout Europe that it ended up in Baroque instrumental suites and sonatas. It originated from Portugal and was performed there by men with rattles attached to their feet, playing cymbals and tambourines. The Tuscan word folle – from which Folia comes – means crazy, mindless, senseless.
Altre Follie presents 15 different pieces of music inspired by and quoting the Folia. Some of the early ones stress the particular rhythm of the dance more than the melody. It is a rather hypnotic basso ostinato. With the guitar piece by Corbetta and Sanz (track 10) the now-familiar Folia melody in 3/4 time is added to the traditional bass line. The Folia fit perfectly into the developing virtuoso repertory for the violin, and thus composers such as Corelli, Vivaldi and Albicastro created sets of variations based on it. Musicians of every type and every culture could improvise together on the Folia melody because it was so widespread. In fact the initial track here is an improvisation by Savall and his players. There is great variety in the instrumental settings, including guitar solos, harpsichord, harp, theorbe, viols, and various string ensembles. Surround sonics are close and clean. A most enjoyable and entertaining musicological hour and seven minutes!
– John Sunier