Tuesday, August 14, 2012

In review--Hungry for Italian Music


Orchestra Popolare Campana
Directed by Emilio Di Donato
CM (Caserta Musica) Records

According to the liner notes for Orchestra Popolare Campana, “Few places are more musical than Campania” of southern Italy (Amalfi Coast, Naples, Capri).  I’ll have to take writer Augusto Ferraiuolo’s word because I know little about regional music of Italy.  Certainly, I have heard traditional tarantata (tarantula) songs, in which a rousing one, Tarantella Tosta opens this album.  However, my experience with Italian orchestra music is relegated to movie soundtracks, such as the circus-like Fellini soundtracks composed by the late Nino Rota.  And of course, I have listened to Italian renaissance and baroque music.  Orchestra Popolare Campana threads sacred Christian chants with a carnival lament and primal tarantata into wondrous musical tapestry--the past and the present intermingling.

Lead by the early music reed pipe, Ciaramella (which you’ll also find in Corsican music), frame drums and tambourines, accordions, lutes, and the usual orchestra instruments fill in the gaps, not that there are many.  Vocals range from solemn polyphonic to rousing monophonic backed by the heartbeat of drums such as on Bbascio Pantano to trembling lutes and chirping crickets on Nenna Ne’(this song reminds me of ballads from Provence).  The shimmery La Favola Dell’Auciello Grifone portrays a fairy tale complete with Italian narration (get out your Italian-English dictionary).  And since everything from fairy tales to sacred chants appear on this disc, the brief Catholic chant Miserere/Magnificat (from Sardinia) offers a spiritual retreat midway through the recording, even with its discordant vocals.  I prefer Corsican sacred chants.

As imagined, this orchestra allows listeners to sample diverse music traditions of Campania and beyond.  This album offers a lively introduction performed by 30 talented musicians and directed by Emilio Di Donato.  The orchestra provides a thick booklet for anyone seeking guideposts on this journey through Southern Italy.  And now, I feel hungry for southern Italian cuisine.

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