Invocation a la Nuit: Musica Notturna – Montserrat Figueras, soprano/ Hesperion XXI/ La Capella Reial de Catalunya/ Le Concert des Nations/ Jordi Savall – Alia Vox AV 9861 (2 discs), 76:28, 74:30 ****1/2 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi]:
This 10-year celebration of the Alia Vox label solemnizes the magnificent artistry of Jordi Savall and wife Montserrat Figueras, culling tracks from their albums from the early 1990s through the present on the Astree/Auvidis (1975-1996) and Alia Vox (1998-2008) labels. All of these 140 (!) albums are planned in re-release under Alia Vox Heritage, and this tribute serves as a sort of kickoff.
Does it work? Yes, for the most part. The theme, explained in great details in the notes, is that of the night, whether music referencing the night, recorded at night, inspired by the night, whatever the association – whether tenuous or not. So Morales’s Officium Defunctorum, a nocturnal matins setting which accompanies the vigil for the dead seems quite appropriate, as does the gorgeous lullaby Desvelado dueno mio by Tomas de Torrejon y Vlasco, a Peruvian composer who played a large part in politics of his age. Arvo Part finds a place on this first disc (subtitled “Songs of the Night”) with Kuus, kuus kallike, words used to lull a child to sleep.
Disc two falters a bit in my opinion. Solely instrumental, it is easy to see why the fantastical elements of Purcell’s Fairy Queen fit the topic well (and three numbers are given here), but the “death” theme of the Funeral March from Beethoven’s “Eroica” symphony and Mozart’s Masonic Funeral Music seem oddly incongruous, the Beethoven especially shown in a dramatic torso that seems weirdly out of place – divorced from the main body of the work. On the other hand, the nighttime premiere of Handel’s Royal Fireworks Music (Largo all Siciliana) fits nicely, its nocturnal associations often forgotten.
This production has great sound all through, and performances are stunning. Though the collection fails a little at the end, the vast majority of the program works very well. Alia Vox is a model of production values; while others cut, they offer book length notes on glossy pages with color photos, superb notes, texts, and translations in seven languages! There is no finer label today in terms of what they offer to you, the consumer, and should be recognized for it. Bravo to all concerned!
— Steven Ritter