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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Il Pergolese, Maria Pia de Vito, Francois Couturier, Anja Lechner, Michele Rabbia

The "old-in-the-new" comes up on these pages pretty frequently. It is in part because the reworking or rethinking of early music styles is one of trends in our new modernism these days. And that interests me.

We get a charming, rather dramatically transformed version of such things in Il Pergolese (ECM 2340 4810427). The quartet of vocalist Maria Pia di Vito, piano of Francois Couturier, cello of Anja Lechner and the percussion of Michele Rabbia engage in the music of Italian baroque composer Pergolesi (1710-1736). What they do with it is place it in another context, in part ECM quasi-Romanticism a la some of the jazz pianists who have thrived on that label. There is a pared down chordal rubato often in the piano that has an improvised feel at times. The counterpoint is put aside for the most part.

Maria sings her part fairly true to the melody or vocal line of the original music some of the time; at other times the arrangement and the quartet go to freer or more modernized directions and she loosens up or follows a rearranged muse accordingly, all with a disarming artfulness.

The cello (Anja) tackles melody lines or accompaniment, or engages in improvisations around the core of the music. The percussion part (Michele) can be Eastern, or archaic, or free and atmospheric, depending.

The music all-in-all has ambiance, freedom, improvisatory and arrangement prowess, a folk quality at times and a sort of multiplicity-in-unity that has originality and evocativeness.

If you know Pergolesi you will recognize some or even many of the themes and can then appreciate what is done with them all the more. If you don't the listening is still going to be interesting and unusual.

What matters is not that Pergolesi is taken apart and isn't that a shame? No because the original Pergolesi has gone nowhere and is still available for you to hear, of course. What this is is new music/improvisation/recomposition based on Pergolesi themes. It comes off very well. Once you get your bearings it is very enjoyable, even a bit of fun, but always a step into today more than a glance at yesterday.


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