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La Meglio Giuventù
Details after review
Vesuvius Ensemble
rec. Glenn Gould Studio, Toronto, Canada, 30-31 January 2014. DDD.
No texts included. Texts available online: no translations
MODICA MUSIC MM0014 [44:58]

Sample Invocazione alla Madonna dell’arco on YouTube

I got off on the wrong foot with this recording: it came to me in a very cheap and cheerful bi-fold cardboard packaging, with no notes and very sparse details. It appears that it’s not intended for release on physical CD – at least, I haven’t been able to find it as such – but it’s apparently supplied to reviewers in that form to avoid the bother of downloading. The purchase links are for downloads.

The complaint about lack of notes still applies – a constant grumble with downloads anyway – and there are some other reservations that I should get out of the way:

  • The playing time is very short

  • The online texts are not translated, though the dialect is far from standard Italian

  • Even the title – the piece on track 5, meaning ‘the best of youth’ – is not translated

  • There’s a picture of a goat on the cover and a sword on the back for no apparent reason

    Nevertheless, there’s much that I liked about the performances. Just six performers – only five of them depicted in the photograph in the bi-fold – two singers and a variety of instruments provide what I found a very entertaining programme.

    The principal vocalist, Francesco Pellegrino, who also plays the chitarra battente, sings on all the tracks except for the title track – performed by Romanina di Gassbarro who also plays the baroque guitar and chitarra battente – and in the two works by Kapsberger and the final Tarantella. Both Pellegrino and Gassbarro sing in a forthright, folksy style, without overdoing it and both sing with impeccable diction. Both have powerful voices and Gassbaro can be astringent when she chooses: at times in the title song L’America - La Meglio Giuventù she reminds me of the distinctive voice of Jantina Noorman who used to sing with Musica Reservata*. In fact I didn’t really need the texts, so clear are they both, but I could have done with translations of the Neapolitan, Campanian and Apulian dialects.

    * some of their recordings were available on Double Decca 4529672 – download only, if you can find it.

    The other performers play a variety of instruments: baroque guitar, theorbo, lute, mandolin, chitarra battente, ciaramella, colascione, hurdy gurdy and percussion. I needed to look a few of those up, too: the gitarra battente is, as its name implies, an Italian form of guitar, rather larger than the usual instrument, the ciaramella is an instrument belonging to the oboe family, also known as the piffero or piffaro, and the colascione a long-necked lute.

    I’m sure this ensemble would sound very well in a collection of renaissance dance music such as Arbeau’s Orchésographie or Prætorius’s Terpischore or Susato’s The Danserye. In fact, I enjoyed their Modica Musica album almost as much as the Prætorius, Susato and Morley on David Munrow’s classic Renaissance Dance album. That’s still available on Virgin Veritas 3500032: snap it up before it succumbs like so many of that budget 2-CD series to the deletions axe. There’s also a most enjoyable selection of Arbeau, Prætorius and others on budget-price Alto ALC1076.

    Reservations apart, then, this is an enjoyable album with a good mix of the jolly and the soulful. If the download sounds as well as the disc, there should be no complaints on that score – I can’t guarantee that because Amazon don’t offer even the best mp3 bit-rate, let alone lossless sound. Much of the repertoire is unavailable elsewhere and while none of it is essential listening, it’s entertaining.

    Brian Wilson


    Anon . Vulumbrella [3:54]

    ’O Matrimonio do Guarracino [3:52]

    Villanella ch’all’acqua vaje [3:09]

    Invocazione alla Madonna dell’arco [6:21]

    L’America - La Meglio Giuventù [3:09]

    Ninna Nanna di Carpino [2:49]

    Giovanni Girolamo KAPSBERGER (c.1580-1651) Sfessania (Libro quarto d’intavolatura, 1640) [1:51]

    Colascione (Libro prino d’intavolatura, (1604)[2:26]

    Anon . Procidana [4:13]

    Si li Femmene Purtassero la Spada [5:41]

    La Morte de Mariteto [4:15]

    Fronna [1:24]

    Tarantella di S. Lucia [1:49]


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