Jordi Savall & Hesperion XXI – Voice of Istanbul at St George’s, Bristol

Jordi Savall, prolific Catalonian composer and musician, formed the early music ensemble Hesperion XX in 1974, tonight he leads the, updated for the 21st century, Hesperion XXI in a night of music inspired by 17th century Istanbul.

Jordi Savall started singing aged six and over more than 40 years has researched, created, played, and recorded more than 100 albums; and performed all over the world, picking up innumerable awards and honours along the way.

Tonight there are seven seats on stage with a range of ancient instruments laid out among them, most of the instruments look familiar but, having checked, I could only positively identify two. There are; Viol da gamba, Qanun, Oud, Santur, Kaval and Duduk, played by musicians from Turkey, Armenia, Greece, Bulgaria and Spain.
It’s a real treat and the venue is suitably full, and quietly buzzing with anticipation.

Jordi Savall complete with trademark scarf, the only flash of colour among the otherwise all dressed in black ensemble, has arranged the running order to allow each musician in turn to lead the performances. Completely un-amplified the sounds that pour out of the instruments are exotic sounding and the effect, in this beautiful venue, feels like a religious experience, even to this pagan-atheist!

Dmitri Psonis on the Santur (I wasn’t a million miles away identifying it as a Hammered Dulcimer) and Hakan Güngör on the Qanun produce sounds of such intricacy that you’d have to imagine more musicians on stage, Pedro Estevan, on what to me looked like a collection of tambourines, teased out subtle rhythms using just his fingers to strike the drums, but it was Haïg Sarikouyoumdjian playing a collection of Duduk that was my highlight, a real close your eyes and imagine hot sands and warm winds sort of an experience.

Shortly before the end of the night Jordi Savall finally spoke to share his hope that music shared can be an instrument of peace, before playing a simple melody in three different styles to demonstrate how peasant music spread and developed over years and miles.

It was a terrific evening of music and an enthusiastic crowd applauded, and whooped, the ensemble off stage.


Jordi Savall was joined by;
Haïg Sarikouyoumdjian. Duduk (Armenia)
Dimitri Psonis. Santur (Greece)
Pedro Estevan. Percussions (Spain)
Hakan Güngör. Qanun (Turkey)
Yurdal Tokcan. Oud (Turkey)
Nedyalko Nedyalkov Kaval (Bulgaria)


See what’s coming up at St George’s, Bristol on their website

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