Gracia Nasi and the Jewish-Spanish legacy
Inspired by Judeo-Spanish folk poetry, jazz, early music and the popular rhythms of flamenco, this original album features 10 Judeo-Spanish melodies revisited by the pianist Toni Costa.
Born in Barcelona, Toni Costa is a high-level pianist-improviser currently based in Switzerland, where he works as contemporary dance accompanist for the Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève.
Fascinated by the history of Spain’s Jews, Tony Costa focused on the life and work of Doña Gracia Nasi (ca 1510 – 1569), a wealthy Marrano who rubbed shoulders with the greatest figures of her time and devoted her life to helping persecuted Jews. Wife of Joseph Francesco Mendes Nasi, who died prematurely in 1536, Gracia Nasi travelled throughout Europe, from Lisbon to Antwerp, London, Venice and Ferrara, before settling in Istanbul in 1553, where she developed commercial activities and played a diplomatic role of international stature in the service of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.
When she returned to Judaism, she promoted Jewish culture, built synagogues, yeshivot and libraries, and contributed to the publication of books, notably in Judeo-Spanish, to enable her co-religionists to recover their faith and culture. In 1558, she moved to the Tiberias region to rebuild a home for Jews wishing to settle there. Unfortunately, this initiative was not as successful as expected, and Gracia Nasi died on November 3, 1569 in Istanbul (?) at the age of 59.
Each song on Toni Costa‘s album illustrates a facet or key moment in Doña Gracia Nasi’s life, from her marriage (with the theme song La novia ya salio del mar) to the birth of her daughter (A la una yo naci) or the lullabies she used to sing to her (Durme, durme).
The music on this album is based on Sephardic folk songs revisited in the light of music from the 15th century to the present day, including baroque polyphony, flamenco and jazz. This original blend is brilliantly realized by pianist Toni Costa, who manages to transfer Spanish guitar techniques to his piano.
A wonderful discovery!