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L'Arpeggiata All'Improvviso Review

Album. Released 2004.  

BBC Review

Toe-tapping continuo on baroque guitars, harp, lute and theorbo, some sparkling...

Andrew McGregor 2004

All'Improvviso...ok, there'll be improvisation then. But it also means suddenly in Italian, and there's an immediacy and freshness here that grabs you right from the first few bars. If you haven't met baroque harpist Christina Pluhar and her group l'Arpeggiata, then it's time you did. They're from the French Alpha labels stable of unusually gifted musicians who work in that grey area where art music meets folk, and here they're exploring the simple repeated basslines and harmonies that have formed the basis for all kinds of music, in every continent, from the earliest dance music, through folk, classical, romantic and contemporary art music, jazz, and of course pop and rock. 'Chaconnes, Bergamascas and a little bit of madness' is the CD's subtitle; the chaconne which seems to have come from 16th century Peru to the height of baroque sophistication; the bergamasca from Bergamo in 16th century Italy (still found in traditional Italian music), and the madness folia a crazy dance style that spread from Portugal through Spain and Italy, and into the music of the royal courts of Europe.

L'Arpeggiata's way of improvising on these ground basses and repeated harmonic patterns is deliciously entertaining. Sources range from 17th century chaconnes to the first track - a new song by Lucilla Galeazzi, and from the moment she starts singing about the beautiful house she wants, filled with tears and laughter, music and poetry, I was hooked. Marco Beasley's voice is just as naturally communicative, and Gianluigi Trovesi's pungent clarinet solos almost swing us into jazz. Add to that the toe-tapping continuo on baroque guitars, harp, lute and theorbo, some sparkling cornet-playing and lively strings, and you have crossover of the highest quality, from performers who recognise no boundaries in 400 years of music. Magical results, from the meanest ingredients, and it ought to be available on prescription to the clinically depressed.

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