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In the ancient past, Hesperia was the name given to the two most western peninsulas in Europe: the Italian and the Iberian Peninsula (in Greek 'Hesperio' meant 'from one of these two peninsulas'). Hesperio was also the name given to the planet Venus when it appeared in the west at night.
United in a common aim - the study and the interpretation of ancient music based on new and up-to-date premises- and fascinated by the immense richness of the Hispanic and European musical repertoire earlier than 1800, Jordi Savall (bow instruments), Montserrat Figueras (singing), Lorenzo Alpert (wind and percussion instruments) and Hopkinson Smith (plucked instruments), created, in 1974, the ensemble Hespèrion XXI dedicated to the interpretation and revaluation of certain essential aspects of this repertoire.
For over twenty five years, Hespèrion have remained faithful to their initial aim and have performed numerous unknown hitherto compositions or programmes live, as well as offering performances through different recordings, radio and television productions (over 30 recordings for EMI, Astrée, Philips, DG-Archiv, Fontalis, Alia Vox). The name Hespèrion was completed by the Roman numeral twenty (XX), corresponding to the twentieth Century which signified that the quest for Early Music also had a contemporary character.
With the new millennium, Hespèrion still remains an instrument of live research and as such, has added to its name the Roman numeral of the new century we have just commenced. The Group therefore will become known as Hespèrion XXI. The spirit characterised by Hespèrion up to the present day has been the eclectic way in which they have made their artistic choices. This has allowed the Group to interpret a number of important Spanish medieval pieces as well as English renaissance, baroque and consort music pieces by Dowland, Tye, Coprario, etc. The Group also brings us other European repertories including a great deal of unknown pieces, which by being played have contributed to the popularity of their composers J.Jenkins, J. Rosenmuller, S. Scheidt, etc..., apart from other well known composers such as Bach and Purcell.
Hespèrion XXI has published through the new record label created by Jordi Savall, Alia Vox following titles: Batalles, Tientos & Passacalles by J. Cabanilles, Elizabethan Consort Music, the double album Diàspora Sefardí, which has been nominated for a Grammy Award(r) 2001, The teares of the Muses by Anthony Holborne, Carlos V La Mille Regretz: La Canción del Emperador, Battaglie & Lamenti, Musikalisches Opfer, Die Kunst der Fuge by Johann Sebastian Bach and Ostinato.
Such an extensive repertoire requires exceptional virtuosity and a profound knowledge of different styles and different periods by the performer. In this way, Hespèrion XXI has become an international ensemble made up of the world's best solo musicians, each individual excelling with his or her instrument, their interpretation depending on the repertoire being played on each occasion. Bearing in mind present day options surrounding the interpretation of ancient music, the originality of Hespèrion XXI lies in the boldness of their choices. They represent individual creativity within teamwork, the search for a dynamic synthesis between musical expression, stylistic and historical knowledge and the creative imagination of the new century musicians.