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Music from the Olive Frontier,
This review is from: Mediterraneo (Audio CD)
For this project Christina Pluhar and her group L'Arpeggiata explore music from the 'olive frontier', an area comprising a small part of France, Turkey and North Africa, as well as Jordan and Portugal (honorary members even though they have no actual Mediterranean coastline).
As with previous albums such as La Tarantella - Antidotum Tarantulae /Galeazzi ∑ Beasley ∑ L'Arpeggiata ∑ Pluhar and All'Improvviso - Ciaccone, Bergamasche e un po' di Folie... /L'Arpeggiata ∑ Pluhar, the instrumentation is slanted towards the ancient, even though the material may not necessarily be so. On this recording we have instruments as diverse as the baroque theorbo (played by Pluhar herself), the harpsichord and psaltery, as well as more exotic examples such as the saz and qanun from Turkey and the lavta from Greece.
Rising above the pulsating haze of the plucked instruments, the vocalists - from Portugal, Greece and Turkey - sing of the joys and despair of the human spirit and of love's lost hopes and dreams. Often referencing the profound mysteriousness of the great sea itself, these frequently overclouded texts shouldn't imply that the album is a depressing listen; it isn't, and when the sun breaks through it's dazzling, any black thoughts swept away in a festival of colour and celebration.
The recording was made in the Salle Byzantine, an opulent private theatre built in the nineteenth century by the Parisian Countess de Béhague, a friend of Rodin, Proust, Valéry and Sarah Bernhardt. This extraordinary hall saw performances of operas and concerts by Fauré, Wagner and Bizet in its time, but was closed in 1939 and has lain largely forgotten until very recently. You can get an idea of its splendour in the DVD which comes as part of the package.
If you've enjoyed other recordings by this band, or the forays into Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern territories by Jordi Savall, then this is a guaranteed winner.