Friday, December 15, 2006

Simple gifts – baroque party music


Top independent store Prelude Records reports a surprise best seller in among all the usual Christmas dross. Los Impossibles is the latest release from the early music group L’Arpeggiata which is directed by the immensely talented Christina Pluhar, who also plays the baroque harp and theorbe. L’Arpeggiatta is one of a number of exciting early music groups in Europe who are breaking down musical boundaries, and they featured in a post about improvisation On An Overgrown Post way back back in November 2004. As Christina Pluhar says in the sleeve notes for Los Impossibles“Music knows no frontiers; even the frontiers of time are blurred … “

The new CD follows a fascinating overgrown musical path through Italy, Spain and Portugal in search of the origins of an obscure early 18th century romanesca found in Mexican manuscript by the Spanish Baroque guitarist Santiago de Murcia. If all that sounds like a dry piece of musicological research fear not, Los Impossible’s position high up in the Christmas best seller lists gives the game away. This is great baroque party music, and there is a seasonal relevance as the negrillos featured on the recording are part of the Portuguese Christmas celebration. Joining in the party are the wonderful King’s Singers, who are making unusual repertoire something of a speciality, and featured here recently on the highly recommended recording of Turkish psalm settings by Ali Ufki. And really making the party swing is a rare appearance by the legendary flamenco guitarist Pepe Habichuela.

L’Arpeggiata has swapped labels from the enterprising Alpha Productions to Naïve, who may be larger but have one of the worst websites in the business. Thankfully the production quality of the CD itself remains high, and the recording venue is the Chapelle de l’Hôpital Notre-Dame in Paris which is also used by Alpha (see header session photo). The sound, assisted by a battery of baroque percussion, is demonstration quality. And there is a real Christmas bonus; the beautifully packaged CD comes with the usual illuminating sleeve notes from Christina Pluhar (left), plus a full-length bonus DVD of the recording sessions which is worth the purchase price alone.

For more on L’Arpeggiata take An Overgrown Path to Improvisation
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