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Sunday, 16 June 2013

Heavenly music at St Thomas's Church in Salisbury

Jordi Savall at St. Thomas’s Church in Salisbury as part of the Arts Festival.


I first came across the work of Savall when I went to see the film ‘Tous Les Matins Du Monde’ at the Cameo Cinema in Edinburgh in the 1990s. The film centered around the life of Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe and his influence on his student Marin Marais (both French Baroque musicians). However, I understood the story as more of a meditation on Art itself;  the true artist, Sainte-Colombe, for whom art and life were one and same, who turned from the softness and indulgence of the material world (and his children) for an almost ascetic life devoted to music. While, on the other hand, Marin Marais, taught by the master, sold out to the superficiality and frippery of court. The musical score for the film is wonderful and showcased the work of Savall, who played the viola da gamba.  In my opinion it is the music that makes the film.


To see Jordi Savall perform in Salisbury was to see a master at work, a real treat. The surroundings of St. Thomas’s Church, a medieval civic church in the heart of Salisbury, with it’s wonderfully preserved Doom painting, proved the perfect backdrop to the Catalan artist.  The heavenly sounds of his viola da gamba floated past the Judgment Day scene to the carved angels in the timbers of the roof, as he played a repertoire of French Baroque including Marin Marais and Sainte-Colombe ( and some English pieces).  What struck me most was his seemingly effortless display. Only someone with such mastery can make it look so easy and sound so beautiful.  The discipline and training to play each note, each chord, each phrase with a lightness of touch and imbue it with a depth of meaning (human experience) is something which can take a lifetime.  In much the same way a visual artist must train her/his hand and eye, and open the mind in order to create works which touch that common human chord.


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