Credit: David Bazemore

This program found Jordi Savall and Le Concert des Nations in their best-known mode, playing music from the French 17th century. Along with fellow viola da gambist Philippe Pierlot, Savall alternated between reprising the duets made famous by the film Tous les matins du monde and performing other material from the same movie alongside various combinations of the other four musicians on stage.

The creeping, mesmerizing sonorities of the music gave concertgoers plenty of time to contemplate the techniques employed in performing on these period instruments. The giant lute known as the theorbo takes a certain steadfastness, while the more fluid lines of the viola da gamba call for an underhand pen grip on the bow. Although the more familiar instruments — violin, flute, harpsichord, and guitar — may not require visible alterations, the ensemble proceeds at a stately pace to stay in tune.

Savall says very little from the stage. He didn’t get where he is today on flash and patter. Nevertheless, there’s something in his august presence and many-hued tone that suggests an almost mystical connection to the deep past. One can easily imagine him traveling back in time to duet with musicians who have been dead 300 years without raising an eyebrow — his or theirs. It’s always a pleasure when he visits our location and moment in history, especially when he comes with transcendent material such as this. 

This edition of ON Culture was originally emailed to subscribers on April 12, 2024. To receive Leslie Dinaberg’s arts newsletter in your inbox on Fridays, sign up at


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