Review: L’Arpeggiata Continues to Push Early Music’s Boundaries – New York Times

Ms. Scheen and Ms. Bridelli combined beautifully in a duet from “Orfeo,” “Sleep, beautiful eyes.” And they offered another predictable encore, “Pur ti miro,” the transcendent closing duet of Monteverdi’s opera “L’Incoronazione di Poppea.”

The concert offered ample evidence of the adventurous artistry and enterprise of L’Arpeggiata, whose artistic director, Christina Pluhar, anchored the performances on the theorbo (a twangy, deep-voiced, long-necked lute). As is their wont, the superbly skilled and imaginative players — most notably the incomparable Doron David Sherwin, on the trumpetlike cornetto — improvised freely and smoothly, whether in momentary embellishments or in bravura solos.

But it was in the second program that they pulled out all the stops. Called “La Festa d’Arpeggiata,” with a justifiable element of self-celebration, it ranged from ancient folk songs (handsomely delivered, mostly by Mr. Capezzuto) to music of Monteverdi, Purcell and other Baroque composers, and from an improvised jam session to “Hallelujah.”

Photo

The mezzo-soprano Giuseppina Bridelli on Saturday with Mr. Saprychev and Mr. Schmidt.

Credit
Hiroyuki Ito for The New York Times

L’Arpeggiata’s style is to test borders relentlessly, with, say, a modern piano and rhythm section in songs of Purcell. And most forays succeed on some level.

Several numbers were performed here in a more or less straight, historically informed manner. This time, Monteverdi’s “Pur ti miro” was part of the actual program, and Ms. Scheen and Ms. Bridelli put it across meltingly again, in a slightly more restrained performance.

But another “greatest hit” of the Baroque era, “When I am laid in earth” from Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas,” as moving a lament as has ever been written, fared less well. Accompanied in jazzy fashion by piano and drums and partially crooned by Ms. Scheen, it was utterly defanged.

All of this is a matter of taste rather than technique or artistry, and none of it is to denigrate the quality of the performances, which were all of the highest level. But this question of taste has come up before in L’Arpeggiata performances. Perhaps paradoxically, the group’s ventures farthest afield turn out to offer less consistent fun than its serious — which is still to say, wildly inventive — performances of standard Baroque repertory.


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