Birth: 1974 in Basle, Switzerland
Genre: Chamber Music
Hesperion XXI is the leading early music organization of the Iberian peninsula. It is a small mixed ensemble of about 12 players and singers and varies somewhat depending on the repertory chosen.
The founders of the group were bowed string instrument player Jordi Savall, vocalist Montserrat Figueras, plucked string instrument player Hopkinson Smith, and flutist/percussionist Lorenzo Alpert. Savall has been the musical director of Hesperion since the beginning.
Hesperion XX made its first appearances in 1974. Hespera, the Greek word for "West," (and for the planet Venus as the Evening Star, which is only seen in the Western sky) is the root of "Hesperia," a term denoting the two "western" peninsulas of Europe - Italy and Iberia; an inhabitant thereof was called an "Hesperio." The "XX" in the group's name related to the musicians' goal of presenting the music to listeners of the twentieth century in a way designed to appeal to and educate them. The name was altered to Hesperion XXI with the coming of the new century.
However, the name did not reflect a geographic limitation on the sources of their music. Although the group has always had Spanish and Portuguese music as a centerpiece of its repertory, it plays music from the rest of Europe, as well, including Dowland, Tye, Bach, Scheidt, Purcell, and Rosenmuller, among many others.
From the beginning, Hesperion was known for its lively, dynamic performances. Its success and Savall's presence on the Basle Conservatory faculty soon allowed it to expand its membership to include a full consort of viols and recorders, transverse flute, cornett, trombones, and keyboards.
The group has performed in dozens of countries in Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia, and in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. It is a frequent guest artist at major music festivals of the world. In 1987, the members of Hesperion XX became the core of a larger formation, La Capella Reial de Catalunya (Royal Chapel Choir of Catalonia) and, in 1989, the Baroque orchestra Le Concert des Nations. Both groups enjoyed a growth of success and accomplishment similar to that of the original Hesperion. Meanwhile, Hesperion XXI continues to give about 100 concerts annually.
Hesperion has recorded on the Alia Vox, Philips, Archiv, Astree/Auvidis, Fontalis, and EMI labels. It has won numerous recording prizes, including the Grand Prix de l'academie du Disque Francais, the Edison-Preis Amsterdam, the Grand Prize of the Charles Cros Academy of France, the Grand Prize of the Japanese Recording Academy, the Cannes Classic Award, the Diapason d'or, the Grand Prix FNAC, and the Giorgio Gini Foundation Prize.
- Joseph Stevenson (All Music Guide)