Since founding L'Arpeggiata in 2000 as an early music ensemble, Christina Pluhar has taken it in some directions not usually associated with the rarified world of historically informed performance practice, particularly into the traditions of Southern European folk music and jazz. In Los Pájaros Perdidos: The South American Project, she ventures even further afield into the world of modern Latin American popular song and folk song. She argues persuasively that the Renaissance and Baroque instruments the Spanish introduced to the New World in the 16th and 17th century remained essentially the same, while back in Europe they developed in entirely new directions so that the difference between the sound of an early music ensemble and a popular South American instrumental group is less significant than one might expect. Based on the sound of this album, she seems to be right. She uses both European and Latin American instruments and although the results are clearly not exactly the same as they would be with either group on its own, they're awfully close, certainly close enough to make the project entirely persuasive. Each of the songs or instrumentals uses instruments from both worlds and the blend is often magical. The addition of the European psaltery and distinctive American percussion in particular expand the traditional sound of either culture.
The singers are all members of L'Arpeggiata and succeed in varying degrees in hitting the swing of the Latin rhythms. Countertenor Philippe Jaroussky is perhaps the least effective, although his singing is consistently beautiful. It's only in contrast to Lucilla Galeazzi, Luciana Mancini, Vincenzo Capezzuto, and Raquel Andueza, who sound like they have this idiom in their blood, that Jaroussky sounds less that fully effective. Mancini is especially impressive; her gutsy alto is ideally suited to fiery, passionate songs like Montilla, while Capezzuto shines in the sunnier songs, and Galeazzi and Andueza excel in the languid, achingly poignant ballads. Andueza's yearning Besame mucho is one of the highlights of the album. L'Arpeggiata and the quartet of Latin American instruments headed by Quito Gato play their hearts out. Virgin Classics' sound is immaculate, finely detailed, and warmly intimate. Highly recommended.