Jérusalem: City of Two Peaces, Heavenly Peace and Earthly Peace
Montserrat Figueras, Hesperion XXI, Capella Reial de Catalunya, et al.
AliaVox, Hybrid SACD
If you’re familiar with Jordi Savall or medieval music, it may not be until three-quarters of the way through the first of two Super Audio CDs that you begin to recognize the sound-world. But this is not “early music.” It’s a living history—a sermon, if you will—on that most tortured of cities, Jerusalem. Savall has given us a prayer for peace in eight languages, an entreaty from within the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religions that have roiled against, and lived with, each other. The 435-page hardback book is stuffed with text, translation, and historical information.
The music laments and surprises at every turn. Reeds, horns, strings, drums, and voices of all types and tunings wind into our consciousness. Four prayers for peace in Arabic, Hebrew, Armenian, and Gregorian chants universalize the plea, but this album is no melting-pot. We hear echoes of traditions; but echoes occur only when there are solid mountains to bounce off of: this isn’t fusion. I see a street scene of centuries-old houses leaning against each other, chaff-colored clapboard against aquamarine stucco, with iron railings, center-worn stoops, and weeping clotheslines at all angles. Each is unique, and each seems to hold up its neighbor. The succession of multiple-language ghazals, or poems of love through travail, build up to a finale of cumulative power. Take some time with this.