Author Topic: Pino De Vittorio & Laboratorio ’600 / Occhi turchini - Songs from Calabria  (Read 289 times)

Offline purofuego

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The singer and actor Pino De Vittorio has already made an album of the traditional songs of Sicily with Laboratorio 600, a collection curated by the ensemble’s director, the lute and theorbo player Franco Pavan, and here they turn their attention to music from the other side of the Straits of Messina. This sequence of vocal and instrumental pieces from Calabria consists mostly of traditional songs, some of them transcribed directly from field recordings, some included in manuscripts held in Naples and Munich.

All but one of the numbers is secular, though that single sacred piece, Si Partì la Madonna, describing a despairing Mary’s search for Christ during his scourging, is one of the most striking. There’s also a parody Te Deum, turned into a diatribe against the power of church and state in southern Italy in the 18th century, and which was originally set to music by Paisiello. That version has been lost, and as in other cases where the original music is missing, Pavan has found other sources that seem to fit the texts perfectly. Stanzas from a Calabrian-language version of Torquato Tasso’s Gerusalemme Liberata describing the death of Clorinda are very effectively set to the melodic and harmonic templates of the 17th-century romanesca.

It’s all done with the lightest of touches and the stylish result is a fascinating musical amalgam, which has roots running across the Mediterranean, from Spain and north Africa to Albania, Greece and Byzantium, and links from folk traditions and commedia dell’arte to opera; 17th-century Neapolitan operas even established a tradition of having the comic characters speak in a version of the Calabrian language. De Vittorio is a superb guide to all of this, bringing perfect diction and just the right amount of actorly guile to his singing, without ever overdoing it, while the playing of Pavan’s ensemble – lutes and harps, with De Vittorio playing guitar and percussion – bristles with energy.

Andrew Clements / Guardian