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Much of the satisfaction of this fabulous disc of early Basque music from Jordi Savall’s new Alia Vox Diversa label lies in its conceptual coherence. Enrike Solinís and his Euskal Barrokensemble present a fascinating survey of both what made Basque music distinct from that of its neighbours and of what connected it to the outside world.

Many of the tracks demonstrate how early Basque musicians absorbed the foreign; the orientally-inflected Koumis- Ezpatadantza, for example, melds a dance of Persian origin with a traditional Basque sword dance.

Elsewhere we hear the influence of the Jews expelled from Vitoria to Bayonne in 1492, whose synagogue melodies were incorporated into the Basque canon. On the flip side, pieces such as ‘Con amores, la mi madre’are examples of traditional Basque melodies introduced to foreign lands by collectors in the service of Castilian and Aragonese royalty.

Most of the vocal tracks, from the spiritual to the bawdily profane, are in the still-mysterious Basque language, Euskera, whose natural rise and fall and mouth-bending diphthongs render it a beautifully expressive tool.

The instruments used by Solinís’ superb musicians also represent a combination of borrowing and burgeoning legacy, ranging from the alboka to the txistu, the traditional three- holed flute still heard at festivals across the modern Basque Country, the most potent symbol of the region’s continuing musical folk revival.

Euskal Antiqva provides a fascinating snapshot of the Basque Country’s place in the early modern world both musically and in a wider sense. A faithfully researched labour of love, the passion of the musicians is blazingly clear in performances of terrific verve and commitment.

Caroline Ritchie Read the full review on Agora Classica


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