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- 11150 East Boulevard
By Caroline Smith Marketing and Communications On Sunday, October 9, Cleveland audiences will have the incredible opportunity to hear music master Jordi Savall perform his program Folias & Variations: Music Dialogues from Orient & Occident  on a rare lira da gamba (c. 1500) and a seven-string bass viol (c. 1697).Two early instruments of uncommon beauty, the lira da gamba (better known as the viola da gamba) and the bass viol are both members of the viol family , a group of instruments that are ancestors to today’s violin and find their own roots in ancient, bowed string instruments that emerged in Central Asia during the 9th and 10th centurie! s. Instruments in the viol family often resemble the modern-day cello in appearance and tonal range; they are played with a curved bow, feature a nearly flat bridge with six or more strings (allowing the musician to produce complex, multi-string chords), and are held between the knees (viola da gamba translates as “viol for the leg”). These refined and sophisticated instruments enjoyed great popularity during the Renaissance, but were gradually superseded by the more robust-sounding cello and the smaller, louder lira da braccio  (meaning “viol for the arm”), precursor to the modern-day violin. A true master of early string instruments, Jordi Savall is the arguably the greatest viola da gamba performer in the world today; as the New Yorker said of one 2005 concert, “No one plays this eccentric, eloquent instrument more beautifully than Savall . . . centuries-old songs and dances glowed with sadness and jumped for joy.” Savall hails from Catalonia, Spain, where his musical training began at the age of six in his hometown’s all-boys choir. As a student at the Barcelona Conservatory of Music, Savall learned to play the cello and expressed a keen interest in ancient music. He went on to master the viola da gamba at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Basel, Switzerland, where he himself later became professor of viola da gamba at age 33. Together with his equally musical wife, the celebrated soprano Montserrat Figueras , Savall has formed three musical ensemble groups—Hespèrion XXI, La Capel! la Reial, and Le Concert des Nations—and performs regularly with his wife, daughter Arianna, and son Ferran. In addition, Savall has recorded over 160 CDs; is the creator of his own record label, Alia Vox ; and performs an astounding average of 140 concerts each year. In his upcoming Cleveland performance, part of the museum’s VIVA! & Gala performing arts series , Savall will be joined by his son Ferran Savall  on voice and theorbo (the theorbo, or bass lute, is an early long-necked string instrument of Italian origin). Their rich, colorful program of early music from East and West is perfectly suited to the archaic instruments that will be featured. Tickets for this performance are available through the museum Web site .