L'Arpeggiata with Lucilla Galeazzi, Marco Beasley
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cd cover L'Arpeggiata with Lucilla Galeazzi, Marco Beasley
La Tarantella
Alpha (www.alpha-prod.com)

This disc combines the best of several worlds - fine early music instrumentals, rich contemporary vocals, music steeped in the tang of Italian folklore. Though L'Arpeggiata is technically an early music ensemble, with instruments such as archlute, theorbo, and psaltery, the arrangements have a more contemporary bent. Multi-instrumentalist Christina Pluhar directs the nine-member orchestra, evoking a smoother, more homogenous sound than the average early music consort. The vocals, provided beautifully by Lucilla Galeazzi, Marco Beasley, and Alfio Antico, are squarely in the present. No hooty, vibrato-free, dispassionate period singing here. The voices are warm, expressive, and immediate. Beasley's radiant, bell-like tenor, in particular, is a stand-out.

As is indicated in the title, the emphasis is on the tarantella, that hyper-speed dance form born of the lore of rural Italy. Many of the tracks are traditional tarantellas, some are newly composed. Interspersed are songs (some with hilarious double entendres) and delicate instrumentals. The true range of the music is especially evident between tracks 14 and 15. The first, "Tu bella ca lu tieni lu pettu tundu," is a tender ballad sung by Beasley, accompanied by silky guitar arpeggios. The latter, "Pizzica Ucci," is a breakneck traditional Pugliese tarantella sung by Galeazzi in a rousing declamatory tone, accompanied by only a jaw-droppingly fast tambourine. The thick booklet attached to the case has several essays on the history of tarantism and the tarantella in French and English, but oddly, not in Italian. It's fascinating reading. The lyrics are printed in Italian, French, and English. And on the last page, there's a close-up photograph of a tarantula's face. It's deliciously creepy; fortunately the music's not. - Peggy Latkovich

CD available from cdRoots

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