La Ruta de la Seda

Capella de Ministrers, Carles Magraner
119:40 (2 CDs)
CdM 1743

This deluxe package from the Capella de Ministrers takes as its leitmotif the silk road and the music heard along its length from the 10th to the 15th century. Each of the five members of the main ensemble plays a bewildering variety of instruments, and on these CDs they are joined by a further four specialist instrumentalists, three vocal soloists and a further group of singers. In addition to the two CDs, the package includes a lavishly illustrated hardcover book with extensive essays on the Silk Road and its music. In the past, I have lamented the low quality of the English translations in CdM productions, but this has been addressed and the essays generally read well in translation. I am also occasionally worried by the fantasy element that can creep into productions of this sort, but the musical content is well grounded musicologically, being drawn from appropriate manuscript collections and clearly labelled as such. The music is without exception beautifully played and sung, and the performance editions imaginatively prepared.


[Video in Spanish, with English sub-titles]

It is good to hear an atmospheric evocation of exotic ancient times, which is both believable and supported by convincing research. Unfortunately, in this lavishly presented production, the details of the musicians and their instruments are listed only once and that in French, while no attempt is made to identify which instruments/players/singers are performing on individual tracks. This would have been interesting in the case of some of the more obscure instruments, and is particularly disappointing in the case of the three superb ethnic solo singers. Having said that, this is a lovely, evocative package, a feast for the ears and eyes, and a worthily opulent end product of a fascinating and well-executed project.

D. James Ross