Alfonso X el Sabio, byname Alfonso the Wise, or the Learned (1221-1284) was the king of Castile and Leon.
Along with his numerous works on mathematics and astronomy, Alfonso X commissioned—and even may have co-authored—many music pieces during his reign. This included the vast compilation Cantigas de Santa Maria which was written in Galician-Portuguese and is considered one of his most prominent works.
The Cantigas form one of the largest collections of medieval vernacular monophonic songs to survive to this day. The work consists of 420 poems with musical notation which, for the most part, describe the miracles attributed to Virgin Mary.
There are certain difficulties in interpreting these works because the musical notation was primitive and the tonal system was developed much later. But thanks to enthusiasts who recreate the ancient instruments and pay careful attention to the authenticity of the performance we can hear the Cantigas today.
Jordi Savall is among the leading multi-instrumentalists and conductors of the early European music period, specializing in Renaissance, Baroque, and Medieval music. He created a unique sound through the use of viols and other Medieval instruments such as the psaltery, wooden flutes, Moroccan drums, and the Afghan rebec.
Jordi Savall noted:
"What we propose here is an attempt to recreate a certain art of sounding the bow during that medieval period... It is not intended to be either a hypothetical historical reconstruction of a concert of that time or a musicological study of facts that cannot be known with absolute certainity."