The Music


Songs from the Land of the Volcano

The Vesuvius Ensemble’s mission is to contribute to the preservation and transmission of the enormous cultural legacy made up by the popular cultural traditions in the zone around Naples and southern Italy. This legacy includes the cultural and musical traditions of countryside peasants, whose rituals and songs been passed on orally and in writing over centuries and finally recorded and researched in the twentieth century by important scholars such as Roberto De Simone, Diego Carpitella, and Alan Lomax. The area’s cultural heritage also includes published material from professional Renaissance & Baroque composers working in urban settings who published in forms which imitated popular music or used texts in regional dialect (Falconieri, Kapsberger, Kirscher, Vinci, Provenzale, Leo, etc.).

Our performances attempt to paint a portrait of Naples and its surrounding countryside in the Renaissance & Baroque periods, giving colourful details of Neapolitan life (the Moorish and Spanish influence on the city’s cultural production, the city’s special religious and secular festivities, unique musical institutions like the conservatorii, also hardships such as the plagues and the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 1631).

The rustic instruments used (the tammorra, chitarra battente, ciaramella, colascione, etc.) combine with Baroque continuo instruments (chitarrone, Baroque & Renaissance guitars, lutes) to create a unique accompanimental soundscape.

The music will include examples of the following musical forms:

Fronna, an improvised lament sung a capella, evolved from traditional funeral laments in the countryside
Tammuriata, a couple’s dance and song, to the accompaniment of the tammorra (large frame drum with bells)
Tarantella, both sung and instrumental versions of the traditional peasant dance
Villanella popolare, songs in dialect with origins in the countryside
Villanella / Canzone villanesca / Strambotto, rustic songs as stylized and published by leading madrigal composers of the 16th & early 17th centuries
Arias from operas and cantatas in Neapolitan and other southern dialects