The Italian early music group Accordone was founded by members of L’Arpeggiata and trades in similar repertoire, reinventing Neapolitan folk music with a captivating blend of period-instrument Baroque precision and improvisatory abandon. The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra has toured with both ensembles in Australia, which begs the question: why is this style so popular?
Well, there’s plenty of dancing. Accordone’s new album is bursting with ritual tarantellas and jaunty peasant songs. The sunny Mediterranean chitarro guitar adds to the zest of castanets and tambourines, but the incessant stamping rhythms can become exhausting.
If percussive excess tires the ear, the voice of Marco Beasley soothes it. Soulful and supple, his is an instrument ideally attuned to the album’s serenades and lullabies. Nowhere is the tenor more beguiling than in the sensual chromatic descent of Volumbrella, caressed by the velvet sheen of a viol quartet.
Pino de Vittorio’s more brazen, traditional folk style is an excellent foil to Beasley’s sweeter tone in theatrical duets. And those rolled Italian Rs add still more rustic bite!
These vibrant songs are based around the life and times of the infamous Fra’ Diavolo (Brother Devil), an 18th-century freedom fighter against the French occupation of Naples. Judging by the lyrics, Accordone view him as more of a lover than a fighter, but the rousing political protest song Marcia Delle Truppe Sanfediste is a highlight. Groups like Accordone are revitalising the early Baroque performance movement with an irrepressible lust for life.