On January 10th, 2012, the Spanish label Aliavox will release an amazing collection called Mare Nostrum (the Roman name for the Mediterranean Sea). This new extravagant book & enclosed cd’s follows other equally remarkable productions by the Spanish label, all of which cover the history of Mediterranean civilization and culture: one devoted to the travels of 16c. priest-traveler Francisco Xavier, another volume to Columbus, one on Don Quixote, and one volume covering ancient Jerusalem.
The new Mare Nostrum book is equally hefty, coming in at over 400 pages with texts in Spanish, French, German, Greek, Turkish, Hebrew, and Arabic and comes replete with photographs, maps, and illustrations. The 2 cd’s contain almost three hours of music, performed by the great early music consort Hesperion XXI lead by Jordi Savall and featuring the last recorded performance by the late soprano Monserrat Figueras. The recording is in Hybrid/SACD format so the recorded sound is crystalline and pure. There are essays by great historians like Fernand Braudel, the great chronicler of Mediterranean life, history, and culture. It is as overwhelming a collection as I’ve ever encountered.
In it we read how the Mediterranean both brought cultures together (such as the peaceful co-existence of Jews, Christians, and Moors and their cross-cultural music and art in Arabic-Andalusian Spain 8-15 centuries) and separated cultures (e.g. Roman conquests, The Crusades, the Christian Reconquista of Spain in 1492, the siege of Constantinople in 1453 by the Ottoman Turks). We also get a sublime taste of the music generated by the cultural synergy that has marked Mediterranean culture: early music, the music from Cyprus brought back to France by the Crusaders, the Arabic and African influences gracing the tolerant atmosphere of medieval Spain during the benevolent rule of Alfonso el Sabio–The Wise.
At a time when we see cd’s issued in envelopes with little information, this collection is a treasure trove of both information and listening pleasure. And for me one of the most amazing–if not the most stunning– collections I’ve encountered in many years.
The music button below gives an example of the sublime music. a Sephardic song–The Jews, like the Moors, were forced to leave Spain in 1492– song in Hebrew that also features the Arabic ney, or cane flute.[audio:http://blogs.kcrw.com/music/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/2-06-Ana-Av-Rajman-Chant-Hébreu-1.mp3|titles=2-06 Ana Av Rajman – Chant Hébreu 1]