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L'Arpeggiata

 

L'Arpeggiata

L'Arpeggiata is a Baroque music ensemble directed by the Austrian-born harpist and lutenist Christina Pluhar. Since its foundation in 2000, l'Arpeggiata has earned an exceptional response from both audiences and critics. The group’s particular focus is on Italian music of the 17th century.  Its performances are marked by daring instrumental improvisations, exploiting rich textures created by the blending a variety of plucked instruments, and a vocal style strongly influenced by traditional music. l'Arpeggiata’s philosophy is to bring together artists from diverse musical backgrounds around projects cleverly crafted by Christina Pluhar according to careful musicological research --and an open spirit. The distinct sound and style of the ensemble, formed around a rich core of plucked stringed instruments, is unmistakable.  Its members, all leading European soloists, join forces with exceptional singers from the worlds of both Baroque and traditional music.
 
Winner in 2009, 2010 and 2011 of the Echo Klassik Preis in Germany, the Edison prize in Holland in 2009 and the VSCD Musiekprijs in 2008, l'Arpeggiata has won consistent critical acclaim for its recordings, with rewards such as the Cannes Classical Awards, Platinum of International Opera Magazine, and CD of the Month of BBC Magazine, among many others.

 

New programme Mediterraneo

 

 

The sea does not separate cultures, it connects them.

 

The ‘Olive Frontier’ and our musical journey

 

The habitat of the olive tree is commonly accepted as a rough guide to the boundaries of the Mediterranean region; hence reference is sometimes made to the ‘Olive Frontier’. Only a small part of France, Turkey, and the North African countries is part of this region, while Portugal and Jordan are considered as belonging to it for cultural and climatic reasons, even though they have no Mediterranean coastline.

 

The starting point for this programme was the canti greci-salentini, songs and tarantellas whose musical roots lie in Italy, but which are sung in Greek by the Greek population resident in Salento for many centuries. This fascinating blend of southern Italian and Greek culture prompted us to set out on a musical voyage of discovery in the Mediterranean region and seek further interconnections. Our itinerary takes us from southern Italy eastwards to Greece and on into Turkey, and westwards to Spain (Mallorca and Catalonia) and Portugal.

 

Canto greco-salentino

 

The Greeks began to settle in southern Italy in the eighth century BC. Through this process of colonisation Greek culture was exported to Italy and mingled with the indigenous Italian cultures. The Romans called the area comprising Sicily, Calabria and Apulia Magna Graecia because it was so densely populated by Greeks. Many of the newly founded Greek cities quickly became rich and powerful, like Naples (Neapolis, ‘new city’), Syracuse, Taranto, Bari, and many others.

 

Between the eighth and eleventh centuries AD, southern Italy was once more strongly Hellenised, with the establishment of an ethnolinguistic community that still exists today. In the year 727 the Byzantine Emperor Leo III decreed that holy images and symbols were to be destroyed in all provinces of the Eastern Roman Empire. Serious unrest soon broke out everywhere, led by monks who refused to obey the imperial edict. There followed the First Iconoclasm, which lasted several decades and quickly developed into a bloody civil war. In order to escape this massacre, thousands of monks left the eastern provinces of the Empire and moved to the southern regions of Italy, Calabria and Sicily, where they founded numerous monasteries. These newly colonised regions rapidly became flourishing centres not only of Greek culture, but also of social and economic prosperity, since alongside prayer and asceticism the monks devoted themselves to cultivating the fields and producing wine and oil.

 

This initial flow of immigration was soon followed by another, prolonged wave. In 867 Emperor Basil I succeeded to the throne of Constantinople. He had taken it upon himself to fight the Arab invaders in both the Western and the Eastern Empires. Large parts of southern Italy had fallen into the hands of the Arabs, whose raids had laid waste towns and countryside. The monks were forced to leave Sicily and Calabria and sought refuge in Salento. Their communities often created new dwellings in caves that afforded them protection. Most of these settlements were located in the area of Taranto, where the morphology of the terrain, with its gorges and tall cliffs, was favourable to the construction of such protected villages. As a result of this migration, around forty villages grew up in the centre of the Salento region, between Otranto and Gallipoli.

 

The early eleventh century saw the first raids by new invaders from northern Europe: in the space of a few decades, the Normans brought the power of the Byzantine Empire in southern Italy to an end, creating a unitary state there and introducing feudalism. The new rulers were of the Roman Catholic rather than the Orthodox faith, but left the Greek population in peace. However, although there were no religious conflicts with the Orthodox Greeks in southern Italy, by the early fifteenth century Orthodox monasticism had entirely disappeared and was replaced by Franciscan and Dominican foundations. After the Council of Trent in 1563, the Greek Orthodox clergy was also supplanted by Catholic priests, thus obliging the Orthodox community to hold its services, its prayers and its liturgy in Latin, a language it did not speak. As a result, the proportion of Greek-speaking inhabitants gradually diminished, especially in the villages on the Ionian Sea.

 

In 1945, Grecia Salentina – the region situated in southern Apulia, on the extreme south-eastern tip of the Italian peninsula (the heel of the boot) – still had about 40,000 residents who spoke fluent Griko, concentrated in the villages of Calimera, Castrignano, Corigliano, Martano, Martignano, Sternatia and Zollino. There is also a Calabrian Griko region that consists of nine villages in the inaccessible mountainous region of Bovesia, including Bova Superiore, Roghudi, Gallicianò, Chorio di Roghudi and Bova Marina, and four districts in the city of Reggio Calabria, but its Greek population is considerably smaller than in Salento.

 

After the Second World War, complex socio-economic factors such as the influence of radio and television, schools, and newspapers gradually reduced the number of Griko speakers still further. Today the surviving proportion is slight, because the language is now spoken chiefly by older people, and then only in the domestic environment. In recent years, however, the Grikohave developed a new awareness of their origins, their history, traditions, and language, which is kept alive above all by music and the old traditional songs that have been handed down over the generations. The Italian Parliament has recognised the Grikoas an ethnic and linguistic minority.[1]

 

The term ‘Griko’designates not only the Greek-speaking inhabitants of Salento and Calabria, but also their language. The Greek dialects spoken today are different from village to village and are interwoven with words from the Salento or Calabrian dialects, which gives them a special musical quality.

 

The tradition of Grikomusic essentially displays the stylistic, harmonic and melodic characteristics of the folk music of southern Italy, but also features some Turkish and Arabic influences. It is possible to distinguish the following main musical forms: the ninna nanna (lullaby for a new-born infant such as the Christ-child), matinata and serenata (morning and evening songs for young wooers), stornello (for pugnacious challenges between peasants), moroloja (a dirge to accompany funeral processions), tarantella, and pizzica.

 

The phenomenon of the tarantella – a form of music therapy supposed to heal spider bites – has remained present in Grecia Salentina right down to our own time. Three different forms of tarantella may be distinguished:

 

1. The Pizzica tarantella[2]

Handed down in written sources from the Middle Ages onwards, this is an individual or collective dance of healing that was regarded as the only remedy for the bite of the tarantula. The possibility that the tarantellagoes back to archaic rites in honour of the ancient Greek mythological figure of Arachne cannot be excluded. On 29 June – the feast of St Paul – the sick processed in pilgrimage to the chapel of the Greek village of Galatina to dance the tarantella on the church square and inside the church, thus combining archaic and Christian customs.

 

2. The Pizzica de core (della gioia)[3]  

This dance is essentially performed at public festivals, weddings, baptisms, and family celebrations of all kinds. It was originally a fast dance for a single couple, but is now also performed in rows of two or as a quadrille. It is intended to represent joy, love, courtship, and passion.

 

3. The Pizzica scherma (danza dei coltelli)[4]

This dance is performed on the night of 15-16 August during the celebrations of the feast of St Rocco at the village of Torrepaduli in the province of Lecce. It is danced by two men, who at one time carried real knives in their hands. The dance called for the best tamburello players, since it lasted for hours, indeed generally the whole night long.
 Today the knives are replaced by the fingers, with the index and middle fingers used to give the effect of a threatening weapon. The movements, gestures and facial expressions, the offensive and defensive postures conform to a certain code of honour. This dance was used to settle disputes and problems of hierarchy in the world of gypsies and horse traders.

 

Fado

The name fado derives from the Latin word fatum (fate or divine will). Some scholars trace its origins back to the medieval cantigas de amigo (literally, ‘songs about a friend’). This term is used to designate settings of love lyrics, the earliest surviving examples of which date from the 1220s. Over the next 500 years more than 1,300 cantigas de amigo were composed. Many of them are found in the Cancioneiro Colocci-Brancuti, today held in the Biblioteca Nacional in Lisbon, and in the Cancioneiro da Vaticana. Both these anthologies were copied in Italy in 1525 at the instigation of the humanist Angelo Colocci.

The fado enjoyed its first golden age in Lisbon and Coimbra in the early nineteenth century. There it was performed mainly by workmen and sailors; at this time it was not only sung, but also danced, to the accompaniment of percussion, and showed the influence of African rhythms. The Brazilian song forms lundum and modinha, which were very popular in Lisbon in the eighteenth century, also influenced the development of the fado. In the late nineteenth century the influence of African rhythms declined, and the genre took on its current form, with a male or female singer traditionally accompanied by the Portuguese guitar and a fado guitar. The songs deal mostly with unhappy love, social evils, nostalgia for bygone days or longing for better times, and all those emotions expressed in the Portuguese word saudade. The fado also contains Arabic elements with its various minor keys, its art of vocal ornamentation, and its idiosyncratic melodic lines.

The performance skills of a fadista are traditionally greeted with hand clapping in Lisbon, but in Coimbra audiences show their appreciation not with applause but with loud throat-clearing.

 

Christina Pluhar, Paris 2012                

Baha muzikas fonds, Hipokrata iela 35-32, LV-1079, Riga, Latvija, talr.: 29208181, e-pasts: bachfestival@inbox.lv