Alla Napolitana

Tarantellas, Folias, Cantatas, Arias and canzone napoletane
L’Arpeggiata, Christina Pluhar
104:21 (2CDs inside a hardbacked, CD-sized book)
Erato 1 90296 60361 7

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I am by nature suspicious of genre busters who rework and otherwise spice up early music, but after several years of experience of her approach I am prepared to except Christina Pluhar from this prejudice. When it comes down to it, she and her collaborators always display an unerring sense of musicality, and I have grown to trust their performance instincts. In the service of this acceptance, I have had to swallow various improbabilities such as the Arabic cornet and the Spanish folk harpsichord, but having done this, the rewards are always enormous. So too with this eclectic selection of Neapolitan music, which treads the fine line between HIP and simply hip to bring mainly unfamiliar repertoire vividly to life. Pluhar has assembled a line-up of extraordinary singers including a remarkable male soprano, Bruno de Sá, and male alto, Vincenzo Cappezzuto, who contributes Raziella, one of the most sultry numbers I have heard on an early music CD. To my ear, a couple of the other singers this time err a little on the ‘classical’ side, but the singing on most of the ‘traditional’ numbers is just superb, characterful and passionate, recalling for example to the wonderfully ‘traditional’ voices on the group’s stunning Mediterraneo CD (2013), but what this CD primarily shares with its predecessor is a wonderful toe-tapping energy and compelling authenticity. Unobtrusively brilliant, as usual on L’Arpeggiata recordings, is the exquisitely responsive accompaniment of a small group of superlative continuo players, including Pluhar herself. Alessio Ruffatto does a fine job in his programme note in drawing this disparate programme together and to inform about its contents, although it obviously helps that he is a Pluhar fan, beginning his note ‘This wonderful recording…’! It is part of a small book, which also manages to present in four languages all the texts of the songs on the two CDs. A lovely production, witty, engaging, musically convincing and often simply thrilling. So it is possible to be simultaneously HIP and hip!

D. James Ross

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