The Cleveland Museum of Art set an exquisite tone for the opening its Renaissance galleries later this year with a performance by early music master Jordi Savall and his Hespérion XXI ensemble last night. The refined music and tasteful style of the ensemble were a perfect fit for the museum’s coming-out celebration after years of reconstruction.
In the rarified early music circles of Europe, Savall is a major star, a scholar of 15th, 16th, and 17th-century music and a virtuoso performer on the viol, an early string instrument. Played much like the modern cello — though held between the knees, as it lacks an endpin — the viol comes in a variety of sizes, ranging from treble to contrabass (also known as a violone). The ensemble brought six different types, which made for a beautiful blend of harmonies throughout the evening.