Over the past three weeks, MILLENIUM OF MUSIC has introduced American Early Music Listeners to the most important recording of Early Music since February 24, 2004, the day of happy memory for those of us who love Monteverdi and longed for one good production - instead we got a great one - of one of his operas on tape. It was on 02/24/2004 that Virgin Classics released William Christie's and Adrian Noble's production of Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria, perhaps the greatest production of opera for video ever released.
The incredibly moving new recording from Jordi Savall and Hesperion XXI is The Forgotten Kingdom, The Tragedy of the Cathars on Alia Vox. It could also be called The Forgotten Music, and for most of us - even those of us who already have a strong interest in music before Bach - our whole picture of the history of western music will be irreparably changed.
This project is incredibly devastating in showing that so much beauty could be wiped out completely and yet strangely inspiring in that such fragments as are shored up here of a lost beauty can still prove so moving.
In the end there is a paradox at the heart of Cathar music. You would not think a people who believed that the material world was evil would be capable of creating works of such heart-wrenching beauty.