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Fanfare Magazine: 36:1 (09-10/2012)
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Alia Vox
AVSA9891 (A+B)

Jeanne d'Arc: Batailles & Prisons

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Reviewer: J. F. Weber

The eighth and latest hardbound book from Alia Vox comes less than a year after its predecessor. It had its origin in 1994 with a nearly six-hour film (two films, actually) directed by Jacques Rivette, for which Savall furnished the soundtrack. Additional CD tracks were recorded a year ago, but it is unclear how much is new. No matter, for the life of the Maid of Orléans unfolds beginning with her birth in 1412 (this is an anniversary issue) and the political events of 1420–22 that left the Dauphin as “king of Bourges.” About 1425, Joan heard voices, but only after her village was pillaged by the Burgundians did she set out in January 1429 to meet the Dauphin. By April she had led the army to lift the siege of Orléans, then on to take Reims for the coronation in July. But the siege of Paris fails, the next year is marked by mixed results, and Joan is captured in May 1430 and turned over to the English in November. Her trial for heresy is held before the bishop of Beauvais and on May 30, 1431, she is burned at the stake in the marketplace at Rouen. So the story, the two films, and the two CDs break down into a year of battles and a year of prisons, ending in 1456, three years after the end of the war, with a new trial annulling the condemnation. The 19th century saw a new focus on her life and trial, with the Church beatifying her in 1894 and canonizing her in 1920. That year the president of the Third Republic visited her birthplace after the National Assembly established a national holiday in her honor, a visit that the outgoing president of France repeated this year on the 600th anniversary of her birth.


Savall tells the story chiefly through readings from the published process and music to punctuate the events. Some music is chant, some is contemporary (Dufay), and some is composed by Savall. The spoken roles are filled by Louise Moaty (as Joan), René Zosso, and Manuel Weber. Zosso will be remembered for his superb interpretations as a speaker in René Clemencic’s recording of Le Roman de Fauvel ( Fanfare 4:2; CD in 9:3) and a singer in The Feast of Fools (4:4; CD in 11:1).


The book has 504 pages in six languages, so the text runs 80 pages, but as usual the color illustrations are distributed throughout the book, so the total unique material is considerably higher than 80 pages. The artwork, both medieval illuminations and session photos, is gorgeous. In addition to detailed contents including the translated narration, there are eight separate essays on every aspect of the story, including a rundown of more than 20 films devoted to Joan. This anniversary tribute could hardly have been done better. Savall has set a standard for this series of books, each one a heartfelt evocation of a subject dear to him. You will flatter the taste of anyone who gets this from you as a gift.

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