Catalonia, triumphant - Catalunya, triomfant - is the opening declamation of Els Segadors, the Catalonian national hymn which was recorded in 1988 in a deeply moving rendition by Jordi Savall and his much-missed wife Montserrat Figueras. Catalonia is a creative powerhouse which has given us the two great string players, Pau Casals and Jordi Savall. So, to mark the fortieth anniversary of Pau Casals' death this month, I invited Jordi to record this brief exclusive tribute to his compatriot.
In that tribute Jordi Savall remembers Pau Casals not only for his great musicianship, but also for his human engagement for peace and concord, dialogue and justice. Jordi shares those values and this week releases Orient-Occident II, his personal homage to war-torn Syria which brings together musicians from Lebanon, Israel and Syria in a long awaited follow-up to his best-selling Orient-Occident project. As always with Alia Vox this lavish new CD/book is a thing of great beauty, nowhere more so than in Jordi Savall's heartfelt introduction from which I take these words:
Thus we have established a genuine intercultural and spiritual dialogue as a vehicle of peace and hope, respecting the musical identity and distinct culture of "the other": a free dialogue far removed from all fanaticism, all forms of which are always the product of ignorance and absolute conviction. The strength of an idea is not built on convictions alone, but above all thanks to doubt. Graham Green reminds us that "doubt is essential to faith" and, in the words of Lesley Hazleton "Abolish all doubt and what's left is not faith, but absolute heartless conviction... In short the arrogance of fundamentalism",Which brings this path full circle: because, as Pau Casals told us 'A musician is also a man, but more important than his music is his attitude to life.'
* Other triumphant Catalans who have featured On An Overgrown Path include Salvador Dali, Roberto Gerhardt, Xavier Montsalvatge and, an honorary Catalan by birth, Thomas Merton. Catalonia's inspirational new Museum of Exile in La Jonquera honours both Pau Casals and Roberto Gerhardt. There is a very different but equally moving interpretation of Els Segadors on the solo album by Jordi and Montserrat's son Ferran that I wrote about in Early music unplugged.
My sincere thanks go to Jordi Savall who found time in his punishing schedule to record a Pau Casals tribute for a maverick music blog; the idea of linking it to his Syria CD, which I bought, was mine alone. As I said before, we need more mad geniuses! Thanks also to our son James for making this post technically possible inbetween travelling almost as many miles as Jordi Savall. Audio file is (c) Jordi Savall 2013. Also on Facebook and Twitter.