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World Music CD Reviews Europe

NAPOLI MANDOLIN ORCHESTRA

By MICHAEL STONE
Published April 19, 2006

Serenata Luntana
Dunya/Felmay

U.S. popular culture’s strip-mining of Italian folk music—most egregiously in the blowsy renditions of the Rat Pack—reduced its original lively expressiveness to inane caricature. Fortunately, a decade’s musicological scholarship at the Accademia Mandolinistica Napoletana offers a more informed approach to traditional Neapolitan music’s teaching and performance. Leader Antonello Paliotti has been a central figure in this process, a guitarist and evocative arranger of the folk repertoire. The orchestra comprises mandolin, mandole, mandoloncello, violoncello, guitar, bass guitar, contrabass, flute, clarinet, Italian percussion and castanets, with Paliotti himself on chitarra battente (a guitar native to central and southern Italy, played with a plectrum to accompany singing). Serenata Luntana offers a number of rare pieces and fresh settings of several instantly recognizable tunes, including Rossini’s “La Danza,” “Funiculì Funiculà,” “’O Sole Mio,” “Torna a Surriento” (Return to Sorrento), “Marechiare” and “Tarantella.” Acutely aware of the indignities visited upon Neapolitan song via international commercialization, Paliotti and his talented colleagues adroitly evoke the veiled beauty of an indigenous folk tradition whose lyricism is brightly manifest in their sensitive re-explorations of its cultural roots.