Here is another superb program put together by Christina Pluhar and performed by L'Arpeggiata. Joining them are countertenor Philippe Jaroussky, soprano Nuria Rial, and a group called Barbara Fortuna, made up of four Corsican men who sing in a distinctly earthy manner, with close harmonies and decorations unique to that island. The "program" here is an invented 17th-century southern Italian mystery play based on The Way of the Cross, broken into three parts: the vision, the death of Christ, and the resurrection. Solos alternate with full orchestral numbers; there are duets and instrumentals; a traditional, breathtaking Stabat Mater for the four Corsicans is followed with one for soloRead more soprano by Giovanni Felice Sances.
L'Arpeggiata's calling card is to combine Historically Informed Performances with jazz--and in this case, folk-based music--and it is amazing how staggeringly well it works. Utter purists in any faction may whine, but listen to the music: it's moving, fascinating, and invariably beautiful. Doron David Sherwin's jazz riffs on the cornet might raise the greatest number of hackles, but he still never goes too far; his embellishments only go "so" far away from melody and never overshadow whoever he's playing with for long. And he adds spice to the many chaconnes and ground-bass-based pieces Pluhar has chosen.
The march-like rhythms tell of the Way of the Cross while the accompaniments--a stunning selection of strings, plucked and otherwise (violins, gambas, harps, dulcimer, baroque guitar, lute, etc.), organ, and percussion--are varied and virtuosic. Furthermore, adding the darkly masculine sounds of Barbara Fortuna to the ethereal Jaroussky and Rial is a stroke of programming genius: the changes are always a welcome surprise. I was wild about their previous CD--Teatro d'Amore -- and I recommend this one without reservation.