Music or Conceptual Art?
Giordano Bruno | Wherever I am, I am. | 05/15/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"That's an open, and I hope non-judgmental, question. "Via Crucis" embodies both a radically creative direction in the performance of 17th C music and an apparently sincere 'spirituality' expressing itself in the concept of a penitential procession in music and words. I make no bones about my indifference to spirituality, so any praise I offer this performance has to do with its musicality.
Harpist Christina Pluhar and her ensemble L'Arpeggiata have stretched the limits of "historically informed performance" well beyond any notion of time-machine replication of the sounds people heard in the 1600s. For me, this was and is an inevitable evolution; the purpose of the "early music" movement was never museum-like costume music but rather the development of a NEW playing tradition based on both scholarly and intuitive understanding of OLD music, using old notation and other archival sources, surviving traces of old practice in traditional musics, and of course reproduction of the old instruments along with rediscovery of their virtues. L'Arpeggiata has arrived on the scene at a moment when the skills of the singers and instrumentalists committed to that NEW/Old playing tradition are ripe. It's those skills that make Pluhar's amalgamations and experimentations plausible. But there was precedent for her notions decades ago. Cornettist Doron Sherwin could testify to that; in the late 70s, he was doing some of the same jazzy licks in the California-based ensemble "Pastime with Good Company."
Sherwin's role in L'Arpeggiata is indispensable. His improvisations are the 'fire' that ignites many of the tracks on Via Crucis, as well as on Pluhar's earlier CD of Monteverdi, titled Teatro d'Amore. Without Sherwin, a lot of what L'Arpeggiata does would sound heavy-handed.
Via Crucis is an amalgamation of written 16th and 17th C compositions by Biber, Rossi, Merula, Sances, and Monteverdi with 'traditional' religious-festive music of Corsica. The performers are amalgamated also: from the HIP world, male soprano Philippe jaroussky and female soprano Nuria Real; from the Trad world, the Corsican male quartet 'Barbara Furtuna', both camps supported by the instruments of L'Arpeggiata: harps, lutes, guitars, psalterion, hammered dulcimer, violins,gambas, cello, contrabasses, organ, harpsichord, and percussion!
The "concept" is a Procession, a theatrical representation of the "Way of the Cross". Appropriately, almost all of the music is processional in structure, employing the hypnotic step-rhythms of the passacaglia (pass the street!), ciaccona, and other "figured bass" repetitions that were immensely popular in the 17th C and that have survived in "pop" music around the European-colonized world.
On the whole, I find this performance just a little less to my personal taste than Pluhar's Teatro d'Amore CD, but still it's extremely fresh and exciting. I don't want to rubber-stamp every bold trick in Pluhar's bag; the rendition of Merula's 'Hor ch'e tempo di dormire' (track 4) gets altogether too space-age reverberant and quasi-reverent for me. But such energy and imagination must be cultivated if the 'early music' movement has any intentions of surviving and expanding its audience."
Zachary Rogg-Meltzer | NYC | 05/03/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"L'Arpeggiata, the French-based ensemble directed by Austrian-born harpist Christina Pluhar has achieved another success, with the release of the new album titled "Via Crucis." The vocal and instrumental components blend together very well, and make this CD an even more powerful listen. There is a religious component that is audible when listening to this piece, which makes sense because "Via Crucis" translates to the way of the Cross. Even if you are not a fan of music with religious undertones, you will still immensely enjoy this CD."