VARIOUS COMPOSERS: Francisco Javier – La Ruta de Oriente (Routes of the Orient) – Hesperion XXI/La Capella Reial de Catalunya/ produced by Jordi Savall – Alia Vox

by | Feb 29, 2008 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

VARIOUS COMPOSERS: Francisco Javier – La Ruta de Oriente (Routes of the Orient) – Hesperion XXI/La Capella Reial de Catalunya/ produced by Jordi Savall – Alia Vox multichannel SACD AVSA9856 A&B (2 discs), 148 minutes***⅝ [Distr. by Harmonia mundi]:

This two-disc set is perhaps Jordi Savall’s most ambitious and handsome one yet! It is programmatic, following the life and eastern travels of Francis Xavier (1506-1552), the founder of the Catholic Church’s Xavarian order. Vocal and instrumental music from various periods in his life abound. There are lively dances like the opening rotundellus and melancholy sacred refrains with original instruments, like Dios Te Salve. Listening to these works, you realize how easily religious and secular culture comingled, sometimes within the same composition. At the end of the first disc, there is a virtuosic African drum piece and a riveting Indian raga, ostensibly of the type Xavier may have encountered in his travels. Perhaps to keep Xavier’s roots in mind, Savall has inserted a snatch of Gregorian chant between an Iberian villancico (folk song) and the Indian raga.

The second disc extends this curious technique of alternating aurally- challenging eastern works with gloomy western monophony. Hearing the classical Japanese piece Shino no netori next to a sacred piece on the death of Pope Paul III can be jarring. You either get used to it or you listen with remote in hand. So what is the unifying rationale for this set? Don’t look to the lovely book for help. Despite an impressive layout, with over fifty pages of text for each of five languages (including Catalan), it contains precious little information about the individual pieces, or the philosophy behind it, including the irksome performance order. You really need Wikipedia, for example, to learn that Heinrich Isaac’s lied Innsbruck, ich muss dich lassen, was later used as the theme for the Lutheran chorale O Welt, ich muss dich lassen, which is included here. So what is in the book? Martin Luther’s 95 Theses. An article about the history of the Society of Jesus (Jesuitism). Extensive letter excerpts from Francis Xavier about his travels. Quotes from Thomas More and Machiavelli. In short, it is filled with texts that demonstrate the zeitgeist of the musical selections—but no musical information about them. (There’s a four-page essay on early music, but it’s way too sketchy.) Thankfully, the vocal works are translated. But the personnel for each are not listed. The extraordinary singer on Senhora del Mundo sounds like Montserrat Figueras, Savall’s wife, but I can’t be sure. With its classy spine and perfect binding, this book will look great on your shelf with your other boxed sets. But the compositions are either in the stellar or the hear-only-once categories. A pity that it’s such a bad idea to selectively rip tracks for MP3 playback, as it ruins the splendid SACD surround sound.


I. Birth and youth of Francis Xavier

1 ANONYMOUS. Alba & Rotundellus

1506 Francis Xavier is born at the Castle of Xavier (Navarre)

2 P. DE ESCOBAR. Villancico: Virgen Bendita CMP 416

1509 Erasmus wrote his “Praise of Folly”, dedicated to Thomas More

3 ANONYMOUS. Consort XXI (Anon. Henry VIII mss.)

1512 Ferdinand II conquers Navarre and takes it from the French

4 J. PONCE, Villancico: Francia, cuenta tu ganancia CMP 443

II. Youth of Francis Xavier

1513 Machiavelli writes “The Prince”

5 ANONYMOUS. Paduana (Mss. Venezia) 0

1516 Death of Ferdinand II of Catalonia-Aragon

6 ANONYMOUS. Villancico: Dios te salve, Cruz preciosa (CMP 434)

Thomas More publishes his “UTOPIA”

7 J. LLOYD. Puzzle-canon I (Henry VIII mss.)

1517 Luther nails his 95 theses to the church door of Wittenberg Castle

8 H. ISAAC Song: O Welt, Ich muss dich lassen (sopra Innsbruck, Ich muss dich lassen)

III. Studies at the University of Paris (1525-1536)

1525 Battle of Pavia. Journey to Paris

9 Pavana “La Bataglia”

1528 Graduates from university. Meets Ignatius Loyola

10 CL. SERMISY Benedic Anima mea

1534 Conversion of Francis Xavier

11 Psalterio (improvisation)

12 O Gloriosa Domina I (Gregorian)

13 VENEGAS DE HENESTROSA. Himno XX O Gloriosa Domina

14 Quod Eva tristis (Gregorian II)

15 L. DE NARVAEZ. Diferencia II O Gloriosa Domina

16 Tu regis alti ianua (Gregorian III)

17 Improvisation (Psalterium)

1535 Henry VIII breaks with Rome and orders the execution of Thomas More

18 CH. TYE. In Nomine Seldom sene

Francis Xavier takes his first vows

19 ANONYMOUS. Villancico: Adoramus te Señor (CMP 420)

IV. Italy and the Foundation of the Society of Jesus

1536 Journey to Basel, Lake Constance and Venice

20 H. ISAAC, Benedictus (a 3)

21 ANONYMOUS. Saltarello (mss. Venecia)

1540 Pope Paul III approves the Society of Jesus (Bull Regimini Militantis Ecclesiæ)

22 C. DE MORALES. Sanctus

Francis Xavier is appointed Apostolic Nuncio in the East.

23 J. DEL ENCINA, Villancico: Pués que tu, Reyna del Cielo (CMP 442)

V. From Lisbon to Africa and India

1541 From Lisbon to Cape Verde, Guinea and Mozambique

24 Percussions from Africa. Dir. Lahoucine Baquir

25 Impressions. Driss El Maloumi (Oud)

1542 Arrival in Goa. Portuguese India

26 ANONYMOUS. Villancico: Senhora del Mundo (CMBP’ Nº 74 PORTUGALIÆ MUSICA Nº 23)

1547-49 Missions in Malacca and the Moluccas

27 O Gloriosa Domina I (Gregorian)

28 Raga on O Gloriosa Domina


VI. A new world of culture. Arrival in Japan.

1549 Arrival in the city of Kagoshima

1 Shino no netori. Shinobue

Death of Pope Paul III


1550 Journey to the Imperial Court of Miyako (Kyoto)

3 Honnôji. Biwa & voice

1551 Sojourn in Yamaguchi and apostolate (Manuale ad Sacramenta)

O GLORIOSA DOMINA Oratio Christianorum Ocultorum)

4 Psalterium (impro.) O Gloriosa Domina I

5 O Gloriosa. Shakuhashi

6 Quod Eva tristis II

7 Improvisation I. Biwa & Shinobue

8 Tu regis alti ianua III

9 Improvisation II. Shakuhashi & Biwa

10 Patri sit Paraclito IV

11 O Gloriosa. Biwa

12 O Gloriosa Domina – Amen

1551 Journey to the kingdom of Bungo

13 Reibo, Shakuhachi

1551 November Departure from Japan, leaving behind a community of some 2000 Christians

14 F. DE LA TORRE. Villancico : Adoramus te Domine (CMP 444)

VII. Approaching the Closed Gates of China

1552 Returns to Goa. Journey to Malacca, Cochin and Singapore, en route to China

15 Improv. Senhora del Mundo Tablas & Sarod

1552 July Arrival in Sancian

16 Improvisation

17 O Gloriosa Domina Diferencia I (Vihuela)

1553 Dies on 3rd December off the coast of China (Island of Sancian)

18 C. DE MORALES. In Secundo Nocturno “Ne Recorderis”

1554 His body is taken first to Malacca and then to Goa

19 FANTASIA (Instrumental March)

1613 Japan breaks off all contact with the West

20 Rangyoku, Nokan

The enduring testament of Francis Xavier

21 ANONYMOUS (CHINA) Ave Maria (pentatonic)

— Peter Bates

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