Alpha White Label

Program: #17-09   Air Date: Feb 20, 2017

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For a while the amazing French label allowed groups to experiment—Sephardic music, Andalusian melodies, and some visionary work by Christina Pluhar.

NOTE: All of the recordings on this program are from the Alpha white sub-label Chants de la Terre series, "devoted to pieces stemming from oral tradition that have had a considerable impact on the written repertoire and continue to enchant the ear.”

I. All’Improvviso (L’Arpeggiata Ensemble, Gianluigi Trovesi, clarient/Christina Pluhar). Alpha CD 512.

Review of All'Improvviso

From the BBC: 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.

1 Voglio una casa
2 Folia
3 Ciaccona
4 Romanesca
5 TurlurĂą (Bergamasca)
6 Folia passeggiata sopra D
7 Ciaccona
8 Ninna nanna sopra la romanesca
9 Chiacona
10 Se Laura spira (Folia)
11 Toccata
12 Kapsberger
13 Folias
14 Españoletas
15 Cantata sopra il passacaglio. Diatonica

II. Yedi nefesh-Amant de mon âme—Judeo-Spanish poems & prayer songs based on love songs (Meirav Ben David-Harel, voice & percussion/Yaïr Harel,voice & percussion/Nima Ben David, viola da gamba/Michèle Claude, percussion). Alpha CD 511.

Yedid Nefesh - Amant de mon âme

The Judaeo-Spanish repertoire is undoubtedly one of the richest and oldest of the Jewish musical heritage. These songs and poems, sung in Hebrew, Aramaic, Judaeo-Spanish or in Arabic, sound as a call to reconciliation

Traditional: Yedidi Hashakhakhta
Yedidi Hashakhakhta

Traditional: Nani, nani

Nani, nani

Traditional: Ya viene el cativo

Ya viene el cativo

Traditional: Durme querido hijico

Durme querido hijico

Anonymous: Teromen Bat Rama

Teromen Bat Rama

Sayed Darwish: Ya Shadill el khan - Tsour Maguinenou

Ya Shadill el khan - Tsour Maguinenou

Anonymous: Alta alta es la luna

Alta alta es la luna

Traditional: Yedid nefesh

Yedid nefesh

Obadiah the Convert: Moshe


Traditional: Shaar, petakh dodi

Shaar, petakh dodi

Marc Lavry: Shekhora ani

Shekhora ani

Traditional: Shalom leven-dodi

Shalom leven-dodi

Anonymous: Veeda ma

Veeda ma

III. La Tarantella (L’Arpeggiata Ensemble, Alfio Antico, voice, instrumnets /Christina Pluhar). Alpha CD 503.

La Tarantella: Antidotum Tarantulae

From This album is not just about the southern Italian tarantella dance; it actually proclaims itself as an antidotum Tarantulae, an antidote to the bite of the tarantula. Both the spider (which is not the same animal as the feared tarantula of the southwestern U.S.) and, indirectly, the dance are named for the city of Taranto in southern Italy. La Tarantella presents tarantellas interspersed with other songs of the region, some traditional, others with known composers. The texts of the vocal pieces are in southern Italian dialects, translated in the booklet into modern Italian, French, and English. The liner notes, in French and English only, are a delightfully diverse lot, with excerpts from writings dating back to the Renaissance, medical and more metaphysical musings on the "tarantism" phenomenon, and several passages that invite the listener to experience the tarantella phenomenon for herself or himself. The pieces included touch not only on the dance but on phenomena that influence the bodily "humors" that the spider's poison was thought to affect. Thus there are songs of love, night, poverty and alms-giving, and more. Some are dances with lots of percussion, others are melancholy. As L'Arpeggiata leader Christina Pluhar writes, "Each of these pieces presents a musical universe in itself, and is functional, therapeutic music, which could stretch over several hours or days, as required. The decision to enclose these dances in a restricted period of time has a practical basis: the real amount of time that can be pressed on a CD." Keep this in mind if L'Arpeggiata gives a concert in your town! "It is left up to the listener to play the pieces in sequence, or to pick out a song that elicits a particularly strong reaction from him," Pluhar goes on.
Plainly, this is one of the more original album conceptions of recent years. If you're afraid of spiders, don't buy it; there are several close-ups of the beasts in the booklet notes. And, since the tarantella is still ritually danced in certain southern Italian towns, it would be interesting to know whether it's a louder thing, danced to music with a stronger tendency to break down physical and mental defenses, than what Pluhar presents here. The dominant sound on La Tarantella is Pluhar's Baroque harp, accompanying some very expressive but subtle singers. These questions aside, La Tarantella is quite an intellectual adventure, and you can't say that about every early music release.

1 La Carpinese (Tarantella)
Written-By – Athanasius Kircher, tradizione pugliese*
2 Lu Gattu La Sonava La Zampogna (Ninna Nanna)
Written-By – L. Galeazzi*, tradizione umbra*, V. Paparello*
3 Tarantella Napoletana, Tono Hypodorico
Written-By – Athanasius Kircher
4 Lu Passariellu (Tarantella Dell'avena)
Written-By – tradizione pugliese*
5 Lamento Dei Mendicanti
Written-By – Matteo Salvatore
6 Luna Lunedda (Pizzica)
Written-By – Alfio Antico
7 Ah, Vita Bella !
Written-By – Lucilla Galeazzi
8 Tarantella Del Gargano
Written-By – tradizione pugliese*
9 Pizzicarella Mia (Pizzica Tarantata)
Written-By – tradizione pugliese*
10 Silenzio D'Amuri
Written-By – Alfio Antico
11 Tarantella Calabrese
Written-By – tradizione calabrese*
12 Sogna Fiore Mio (Ninna Nanna Sopra La Tarantella)
Written-By – Ambrogio Sparagna
13 Tarantella Italiana
Written-By – Don Francisco Xavier Cid
14 Tu Bella Ca Lu Tieni Lu Pettu Tundu (Tarantella)
Written-By – Giuseppe De Vittorio
15 Pizzica Ucci
Written-By – tradizione pugliese*
16 Lu Povero 'Ntonuccio (Lamento Funebre)
Written-By – tradizione pugliese*
17 Antidotum Tarantulae
Written-By – Athanasius Kircher

Composer Info

Sayed Darwish, Marc Lavry, Athanasius Kircher, Matteo Salvatore, Alfio Antico, Lucilla Galeazzi, Ambrogio Sparagna, Don Francisco Xavier Cid, Giuseppe De Vittorio

CD Info

Alpha CD 512, Alpha CD 511, Alpha CD 503