In 1987, after 13 years of intense research, concerts and recordings with the ensemble Hespèrion XX, the decision to send our children to school in Catalonia led to us spending more time there and gave us the opportunity to contact and select various Romance language-speaking singers from Catalonia, Spain and other countries. Convinced of the defining influence that a country’s cultural roots and traditions inevitably have on the expression of its musical language, Montserrat Figueras and I founded La Capella Reial with the aim of creating one of the first vocal ensembles devoted exclusively to the performance of Golden Age music according to historical principles and consisting exclusively of Hispanic and Latin voices.
Taking as our model the famous medieval “Royal Chapels” which inspired the great masterpieces of religious and secular music of the Iberian Peninsula, this new “Capella Reial”, which in 1990 took the name La Capella Reial de Catalunya thanks to the sponsorship of the Catalan government, was the fruit of many years of research and performance in the early music field. Together with Hespèrion XX – founded in 1974 – and with the primary objective of deepening and broadening research into the specific characteristics of Hispanic and European vocal polyphony before 1800, the ensemble has been distinguished by an approach to performance which combines attention to the quality of the vocal sound and its appropriateness to the style of the period, as well as the declamation and expressive projection of the poetic text, and above all a respect for the deeper spiritual and artistic dimension of each and every work.
Under my direction, and with Montserrat’s close artistic collaboration, the ensemble rapidly built up an intense concert and recording activity, regularly appearing at the world’s major early music festivals from the time it was founded. Its repertory and principal recordings, collected in more than thirty CDs, range from the Cantigas of Alfonso X the Wise and El Llibre Vermell de Montserrat to Mozart’s Requiem, and include the Golden Age Cancioneros and the great composers of the Catalan, Spanish and European Renaissance and Baroque, such as Mateu Fletxa, Cristóbal de Morales, Francisco Guerrero, Tomás Luís de Victoria, Joan Cererols, Claudio Monteverdi and H.I.F. von Biber, as well as the Sephardic song repertory, the music from the Mystery Play of Elx, the ballads from Cervantes’s Don Quixote and 15th century Hispanic music from the age of Queen Isabella I of Castile and Christopher Columbus.
Some of the highlights of the ensemble over the past twenty-five years have been its participation in the soundtrack of Jacques Rivette’s film Jeanne La Pucelle about the life of Joan of Arc, as well as the operas Una cosa rara by Vicent Martín i Soler, and Claudio Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, staged at the Liceu opera house in Barcelona and at leading European concert halls and opera houses such as the Teatro Real in Madrid, the Konzerthaus in Vienna, the Teatro Regio in Turin, the Palais des Arts in Brussels and the Bordeaux Opera House. In 2007 La Capella Reial de Catalunya performed Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo and the Vespro della la Beata Vergine during the Edinburgh Festival. Over the last few years the singers of La Capella Reial have partcipated in a number of major recording projects, including The Route to the Orient, on the life of St Francis Xavier, The Forgotten Kingdom, on the epic struggle and extermination of the Cathars, the Grammy Award winning The Borgia Dynasty, on the famous members of that Renaissance family, Joan of Arc, Erasmus of Rotterdam and, more recently, the DVD of Bach’s B minor Mass, recorded at the Fontfroide Festival in 2011.
We are delighted to celebrate the ensemble’s 25th anniversary in a creative new way by launching our Vocal Research and Performance Academies designed for young professional singers, which we hope to be able to offer regularly once or twice a year. This intense pedagogical work is carried out in conjunction with the Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya (ESMUC), Barcelona City Council, the European Union, Fundació Banc Sabadell and our own foundation, Centre Internacional de Música Antiga (CIMA). Our forthcoming projects include J.S. Bach’s Magnificat in D, G.F. Handel’s Jubilate, Vivaldi’s Gloria, C.P.E. Bach’s Oratorio Die Israeliten in der Wüste, 16th and 17th century Christmas choral music, and the cycles War & Peace I: 714-1714 and War & Peace II: 1714-2014. At the same time we shall continue to perform around the world emblematic projects such as Jerusalem and Pro·Pacem, veritable historico-musical “oratorios” advocating Peace and intercultural dialogue.
In Memoriam Montserrat Figueras
Bellaterra, February 2013
Translated by Jacqueline Minett