Alfio Antico, singer & tamburi a cornice/ L’Arpeggiata, conducted
by Christina Pluhar – Multichannel SACD stereo – Alpha SA 503 ****:
“One’s first experience of a real tarentella always comes as a shock.
For there is a world of difference between the sound of the Neapolitan
picture-postcard tourist version – a hackneyed song in triple
time with mandolins – and the very impressive dance, formerly
found throughout Apulia, whose history goes back to ancient times.”
So begins one of the articles in the insert accompanying this
recording. The booklet and recording form an essay on the history and
styles of the tarentella. People believed the tarantula’s bite (which
was more likely a bite from a spider related to the black widow)
induced melancholia and lethargy. Hence the lively rhythm to get the
victim up and moving about.
The color of the spider had a bearing on which tarantella the victim
danced to. One man, bitten by two spiders of different colors,
supposedly died because he could not find a single tarantella that
suited both spiders. This lively dance became an excuse for young women
to claim they’d been bitten so they could engage in dancing that would
be considered licentious if not for the excuse of being an antidote to
a bug bite. The tarentella was thus a door to women’s sexual liberation.
Tarentellas are not always fast or lively. Many are about love, and
loaded with double meanings like blues lyrics: “You used to like
sausages, but you no longer eat them.”. The performances seem committed
and definitive. I could find nothing to criticize, though I’m hardly an
expert on Italian folk music.
The sound is both crisp and transparent, with excellent vocal and
instrumental focus. The ambience is romantic, with a shimmering
reverberation. I listened to this disk three times, and it hasn’t worn
out its welcome. If you have the least interest in authentic folk
music, this disk is, as the Brits would say, self-recommending.
— William Sommerwerck