Countertenor Philippe Jaroussky joins the instrumentalists of L’Arpeggiata, led by Christina Pluhar on the theorbo, for a colourful, often amorous programme. It focuses on the air de cour, a ‘courtly song’ much in favour in France during the reign of Louis XIII in the first half of the 17th century. Accompanied by lute or theorbo, and generally strophic in form, the air de cour is soulful and refined in its expression of love, regret and spiritual reflection.
The album takes its title, Passacaille de la Follie – Passacaglia of Madness, from Yo soy la locura, a song written to a Spanish text by the court musician Henri Le Bailly. Echoing the theme of madness or folly engendered by love is a purely instrumental improvisation, arranged by Christina Pluhar, on Les Folies d’Espagne, whose melody and harmony inspired numerous sets of variations in the Baroque era. Among the composers to feature on Passacaille de la Follie are the principal exponents of the air de cour: Pierre Guédron, Antoine Boësset, Étienne Moulinié and Michel Lambert.
The earlier decades of the seventeenth century were a troubled time for France and Europe as a whole. Louis XIII was just nine years old when he came to the throne in 1610 after the murder of his father, Henri IV. His younger brother, Gaston d’Orléans, attempted on several occasions to undermine his rule through conspiracies and plots. For all that, the arts flourished during Louis XIII’s reign. The King painted, played the guitar, composed and had a passion for dance, while Gaston also maintained an ensemble of instrumentalists and singers. Prominent figures in society gathered in salons for conversation and culture, showing a particular appreciation for the sophisticated and refined singing of airs de cour.
In Autumn 2022, Jaroussky, Pluhar and L’Arpeggiata performed this repertoire to a capacity audience at New York’s Zankel Hall, part of Carnegie Hall. Parterre praised Philippe Jaroussky as an artist “in his vocal prime with a tone that is both rounded and ringing with a sweet ingratiating timbre and tonal bloom. This is not a straight piercing tone but one with a delicate vibrato which Jaroussky could subtract or add in for expression and musical effect.” Concerto.net found that the performance “offered nothing less than enchantment,” going on to say that, “All of the songs, without exception, transported us back three centuries, the dulcet sounds and tender vocal lines, never sentimental or overly-emotional ...
The players were superlative, the notes were inspired …”
16 August 2021
Christina Pluhar, L’Arpeggiata and eight guest singers explore the musical indiosyncrasies of Naples on Alla Napoletana
Christina Pluhar and L’Arpeggiata explore the musical highways and byways of Naples, the most intoxicating and idiosyncratic of Italy’s large cities. Alla Napoletana, a double album, expresses the city’s mercurial personality in music from the 17th to the 20th centuries, embracing the operatic style of the so-called Neapolitan School, which rose to prominence in the late 1700s, and popular songs and dances. Among them are several examples of the tarantella, the lively, sometimes frenzied dance that epitomises southern Italy.
The multi-faceted instrumentalists of L’Arpeggiata are joined by eight singers: sopranos Céline Scheen and Bruno de Sá; mezzo-soprano Luciana Mancini, countertenor Valer Sabadus and alto Vincenzo Capezzuto; tenors Alessandro Giangrande and Zachary Wilder, and bass João Fernandes.
The repertoire, 24 tracks in all, is as varied and colourful as Naples itself. The cantatas include ‘La Veglia’ (The Vigil), a graceful work for Christmas by Cristoforo Caresana – born in Venice, but an adoptive Neapolitan, and a dramatic and daring pair by Pietro Antonio Giramo ll pazzo and la pazza – the madman and the madwoman. Among the popular songs are Lo guarracino, a comic, tongue-twisting tarantella, running to 19 verses. It tells of love, jealousy and conflict among the fish of the Bay of Naples; the trouble starts when a damselfish falls in love with a sardine. The song has its origins in the 18th century, while Rodolfo Falvo’s passionate, if indirect, confession of love, ‘Dicitencello Vuje’ dates from 1930 and has numbered Mario Lanza, Tony Bennett and Nina Simone among its interpreters. The flowing, mournful ‘Feneste che luciva’ is also thought to date from the 18th century, but has often been attributed to the Sicilian-born operatic composer Vincenzo Bellini and was famously recorded by Enrico Caruso, the very definition of the Neapolitan tenor.
03 October 2019
Dazzling line-up of vocal soloists to appear on Christina Pluhar's new album
The latest album from Christina Pluhar and her instrumental ensemble L’Arpeggiata sheds new light on the chamber cantatas of 17th century Italian composer, Luigi Rossi. He wrote more than 300 of these works and Christina Pluhar’s new double album includes an impressive number of 21 world premiere recordings, which are the fruit of Christina Pluhar’s research among music manuscripts held in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and the Vatican Library.
“These cantatas are works of rare beauty,” says Pluhar, who describes Luigi Rossi as “one of the shining lights of 17th-century Italian vocal music. Supremely inventive and extremely versatile, he juxtaposed styles within a single work, often shifting from intense recitative to mellifluous song, while also venturing into daring harmonic regions.”
She has assembled a dazzling line-up of singers to perform the cantatas: sopranos Véronique Gens and Céline Scheen, mezzo-soprano Giuseppina Bridelli, and countertenors Philippe Jaroussky, Jakub Józef Orliński and Valer Sabadus.
Luigi Rossi, born in Puglia in 1597, was highly successful in his time, serving three of the most illustrious Italian dynasties – the Borghese and Barberini families in Rome and the Medici in Florence – and subsequently France’s King Louis XIV. His L'Orfeo, which received its premiere in Paris in 1647, was among the first operas to be staged in France. Rossi is also associated with the first Parisian appearances by castrato singers – their voice-type was not integral to France’s musical traditions.
Rossi had gone to Paris in 1646, where he joined the Barberinis, exiled from Rome the previous year following controversy over their handling of Papal funds. Some of their other musicians, including several castratos, also went to France with them. In Rome they had been noted for marking important occasions with commissions for masses, oratorios and operas, among them Rossi’s Palazzo incantato (Enchanted Palace), inspired by Orlando Furioso, which enjoyed a great success in 1642.
At the time, the man who wielded the most power in France was not the King – just four years old when he came to the throne in 1643 – but his godfather and Chief Minister, Cardinal Mazarin. Mazarin, an Italian by birth, enjoyed close links with the Barberini family, which had played an important role in furthering his diplomatic career in the 1630s. He was also a great advocate of Italian style in the arts and it was thanks to him that L’Orfeo, a sumptuously scored work, was lavishly staged at the Palais-Royal before Louis XIV and his mother, Queen Anne of Austria. Rossi returned to Italy in 1650 and in due course another Italian-born composer of opera, Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-87), became the musical supremo at the court of the Sun King.
13 February 2017
L'Arpeggiata nominated for the Opera category in BBC Music Magazine Awards
The 2017 BBC Music Magazine Awards nominations have been announced, and you can vote now for your favourite albums of the past year.
Among this year's candidates in the Opera category is Christina Pluhar and l'Arpeggiata's exquisite Cavalli album l'Amore Innamorato(which translates to 'love in love').
“Hana Blažiková's limpid sound contrasts well with Nuria Rial's smokier tones," wrote BBC MusicMagazine's critic in the 5-star review, in praise of the two superb sopranos on the album. "After L'Arpeggiata's recent forays into jazz, popular and cross-over repertoires, it is good to hear them return to Baroque music - and on dazzling form.”
The BBC Music Magazine Awards are the only classical music prizes open entirely to the public. Make your voice heard and vote in any of the eight categories. Entries close 24 February, 2017.
18 August 2016
If Orfeo were a shaman... An aural and visual feast from l'Arpeggiata
Christina Pluhar and her ensemble L’Arpeggiata have made a speciality of fusing cultures and musical styles – as they have shown in a string of Erato albums, such as Mediterraneo, Via Crucis and Los Pajaros Perdidos. Now, with Orfeo Chamán(released in October 2016) they have moved into the world of opera by taking one of the most famous Ancient Greek myths, infusing it with spirituality drawn from Asia and the Native Americans, and giving it musical expression by blending Baroque and traditional styles and a contemporary idiom influenced by Latin American popular music.
With this Erato release, admirers of L’Arpeggiata can enjoy substantial highlights of Orfeo Chamán in audio form and also a DVD of the entire opera, recorded for video at the Teatro Mayor Julio Mario Santo Domingo in Bogotá, Colombia in November 2014, when it received its world premiere staging.
As Christina Pluhar has written: “The musical elements – like our story, with its combination of mythological elements from different periods and continents – navigate between musical cultures and centuries and combine to create something new and universal. I composed some pieces myself, while in others I reworked and arranged melodic or harmonic material from the Baroque period or from the traditional music of different cultures, and adapted it to fit the libretto.”
The libretto is by the Colombian poet Hugo Chaparro Valderrama. The story of Orpheus – the divinely gifted musician who visits Hades in a bold attempt to retrieve his dead beloved, Eurydice – has, of course, been treated by such composers as Monteverdi, Gluck, Offenbach and Harrison Birtwistle.
Pluhar explains that, “inOrfeo Chamán, we have woven Greek and pre-Columbian mythology together and incorporated shamanic rituals into the story of Orpheus.” Shamanism (still found in Eastern Europe, Asia, the Americas, Australia, sub-Saharan Africa and Oceania) is based on the belief that – like humans – animals, plants, rocks and water possess a soul. A shaman acquires the capacity to travel between different worlds and communicate with spirits, and inOrfeo Chamán, Orpheus takes a shamanic journey to another world to recover a lost soul. He is accompanied by his nahual, or guardian spirit – here in the form of a jaguar, the Latin American spotted panther. This Orpheus is a poet, magician and religious teacher, and, like the Orpheus of Greek myth, he can entrance the birds and beasts with his music.
The Teatro Mayor Julio Mario Santo Domingo invited the Colombian-Swiss stage directors Rolf and Heidi Abderhalden to produce an opera at the theatre and the Abderhaldens invited Christina Pluhar to work on the project – originally conceived as a production of Monteverdi’s Orfeo, but soon becoming the creation of a new work. For the leading role, Pluhar chose a performer from the world of popular music, the young Argentinian singer and guitarist Nahuel Pennisi. Something of a real-life Orfeo, he has been blind since birth and has used music as a way of exploring and interacting with his environment.
Pennisi plays his guitar not against his torso but across his lap, almost like a zither. As Pluhar says, “With his emotional voice and his unique guitar technique, Nahuel opens our ears to a new world – without the need for stage effects. He sings the music as if he just composed it himself, and the text as if it came straight from his heart.”
The other singers are classically trained vocalists, experts in the Baroque style, who are also comfortable with singing popular music: “Our cast’s vocal and technical flexibility enabled me to incorporate a variety of musical styles in the work that were suited to the voice of the singer concerned, to the character of the role, to the expression of the text or to the atmosphere of the situation,” says Pluhar. They are joined by a company of actors and dancers for a musically and scenically colourful spectacle – haunting, exhilarating and moving.
L'Arpeggiata 15th-anniversary festival in Paris cancelled for security reasons
For the Paris-based Baroque Ensemble l'Arpeggiata, this weekend was to be a joyous celebration of 15 years of music-making across styles, eras and cultures. They had organised a l'Arpeggiata Festival at the Salle Gaveau for the occasion, with several concerts, surprise guests, and a late-night jam session on the programme.
Following the attacks in Paris and the violence that struck in particular the concert venue Le Bataclan on Friday 13 November, l'Arpeggiata founder and director Christina Pluhar announced that the group wished to go ahead with these concerts on Saturday and Sunday, to pay tribute to the victims, sharing music, art, culture, beauty and community; to soothe and fortify those in attendance.
"We are living through a dark period in our history. What has happened in Paris is shocking. All our thoughts go out to the victims and their families," l'Arpeggiata wrote in a statement.
"We, the musicians of l'Arpeggiata, have taken the weighty decision to continue with the concerts at the Salle Gaveau. Faced with the barbaric atrocities perpetrated, we mobilise for peace.
"Music is our weapon to combat the terror which overwhelms us."
Hours before the scheduled concerts, however, the Préfecture de Police ordered the closure of the Salle Gaveau and all other concert venues, and the events could not take place despite the best wishes of the musicians. Other events will be announced at a later date.
We leave you with some of the music that would have been heard at the concert: Piante ombrose, in the hope that it does indeed offer some comfort. "Does the god of thunder so mercilessly scorch the earth?"
01 October 2015
L'Arpeggiata celebrate 15 years performing their unique blend of Baroque
In 2000, with the beginning of a new millennium, the theorbist, harpist and conductor Christina Pluhar founded her ensemble l’Arpeggiata. The group quickly took flight and has gone from strength to strength over the past 15 years, having given more than 800 concerts in Europe, North and South America, Asia and Australia, and with more than a dozen acclaimed albums to its name.
With richly imaginative programmes brought to life by exceptional musicians and singers (including guests Philippe Jaroussky, Véronique Gens, Gianluigi Trovesi, Pepe Habichuela), l’Arpeggiata have built up a loyal following of music-lovers. Following their first successes, Christina Pluhar continued to explore an adventurous, genre-defying musical path combining music from different cultures and eras – the approach that still shapes l’Arpeggiata’s signature sound today.
This is an ensemble that never stops reinventing itself and the music it plays, with musicians that push boundaries and collaborations that are always surprising and invigorating.
L'Arpeggiata marks its 15th anniversary with a special event in Paris: the Arpeggiata Festival. Held at the elegant Salle Gaveau over two evenings, the festivities include a concert around the stunning new album of music by Cavalli, l'Amore innamorato, a 'surprise' programme, and a late-night jam: all journeying through 15 incredible years of musical adventure, with the long-serving ensemble musicians and returning guest soloists that have come to define the group's inimitable style.
On the programme: frenzied tarantellas, improvisations, fabulous voices, devilish dances, and a generous helping of humour and surprises!
The limited edition CD/DVD of the new album, Cavalli: l'Amore Innamorato, is out 23 October. The bonus DVD includes 15 years of l'Arpeggiata performance highlights.
26 March 2014
What do Purcell and Leonard Cohen have in common?
In her most ambitious and surprising project to date, Christina Pluhar and her genre-defying band show that switching from Baroque to jazz to bluegrass within a single piece of music is as easy as setting an iPod to shuffle.
On their new album Music for a while, L’Arpeggiata traces the natural progression that connects the 17th-century arias of English composer Henry Purcell to the beating heart of most forms of popular music today. With hauntingly beautiful voices building in intensity over repeated ground bass, it’s no wonder arias like Dido’s Lament (When I Am Laid In Earth) have stuck around, as deeply moving today as when Purcell first penned them in the 1600s.
“We wished to underline the extraordinary modernity of Purcell’s music by constantly moving between the centuries in the harmonies and styles of the improvisations,” Pluhar explains. “The bass lines and melodies composed by Purcell remain intact, but the improvisatory style of the instruments suddenly switches centuries.”
Pluhar invited countertenor Philippe Jaroussky to let his inner jazzman shine in eternal favourites like O Solitude and the title track Music for a while. The Baroque musicians of L’Arpeggiata welcomed into the fold jazz guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel and returning reedman Gianluigi Trovesi to do what L’Arpeggiata does best: create meeting points in sound that are universal and timeless, as daring as they are inevitable.
The music flows from the glorious ‘Alleluias’of Purcell’s Evening Hymn to a bonus-track cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah… As only L’Arpeggiata could play it.