Riccardo Tesi- Acqua Foco e Vento
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Riccardo Tesi
Acqua Foco e Vento: New Traditional Music from Tuscany
Dunya Records (www.felmay.it)

cd cover "Folksong has spanned the ages and resisted the oblivion prepared for it by a society in continual transformation, thanks to the topicality and universality of its themes, its poetic content and the strength and beauty of its melodies. It asks nothing of us except that we go on singing."

Those words by Riccardo Tesi are the key to deciphering the essence and the beauty of Acqua Foco e Vento. Tesi returns to the music of his native region after years of working within other cultural spheres with the knowing perception of an immigrant returning to his homeland and the warmth of a native son. This record contains music from the mountainous region around Pistoia, produced with the help of the European Union and a number of local heritage organizations.

The rather big budget that this confluence of forces has allowed for has been put to good use by allowing for extensive research (which has resulted in unearthing a group of wonderful traditional songs) and a big orchestra.

The record is divided in parts: work songs, lullabies and list songs (an educational device used to learn numbers and other facts during the childhood), women's songs and feast songs. Each song acquires the necessary orchestration and vocal treatment which although never strictly traditional always feels right. Tesi is assisted in particular by Anna Granata on vocals and Maurizio Geri, an old acquaintance from the Banditaliana recordings, on vocals and guitar; Geri was also responsible for research on the songs. Musicians on sax, cello, double bass, mandola, benas, frame drums, piano, harmonium, keyboards and percussion round out a band that of course includes Tesi's melodeon.

The result is a collection of songs that have been, on occasion, heavily fiddled with, but which have acquired a sense of dignity and warmth as a result of the smart, expansive orchestration. There are times when the radical change of structure makes you wonder how the vernacular version may have sounded. Still, the magnificent atmosphere created throughout the record more than makes up for it, leaving you feeling soothed and exalted. As Tesi himself has noted in the liner notes, the artist has the task of reimagining and recounting folk music and I have to agree with him on the power of his interpretation. He has certainly gambled and won in this case.

"Water, wind and fire are three things that fill you with fear" as the old saying that gave the name to this record goes. But Water, Wind and Fire leaves out Earth as the Fourth Element, the earth which this record has found a unique way to adhere to, through the eternal power and humanity of the folk song and the uniqueness of the artistic touch. - Nondas Kitsos

Available at cdRoots

Audio ©2003 Felmay, Italy

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