This is my new favorite album of all time. That might not last for so long, but, hey, it's 2009. I've got a big collection of music, and this is damn good. L'Arpeggiata (perhaps named after the piece for lute by Kapsberger), is an ensemble directed by harpist and lutenist Christina Pluhar. Their recordings have pretty consistently been composed of pieces both instrumental and vocal with instrumental backup. Think of L'Arpeggiata as a big continuo group. They've got minor percussion, a hammered dulcimer (psaltery?), and at times they bring out melody instruments like cornetto and violin. They're a historically-informed group, but they don't use that as any restriction. Instead, it's the foundation for lively music making that often causes a curled smile by this listener. This recording celebrates the chaccone. What makes it stand out is the addition of an E-flat clarinet. Suddenly, it's an early baroque band that suddenly has gone Klezmer. There's no doubt in my mind, that no matter the mood of a particular track or section within a track, that the musicians here are having fun. Among my favorite two tracks are the Folia, the Spanish dance that traveled its way across Europe, causing an intolerable sensation as it did. Composers over time have taken up this "crazy" dance and done some cool things with it. Again, the clarinet here is just crazy fun. The other winner is Antonio Bertali's violin sonata over a bass chaccone. Some slight variation from the score here is by far the best reading yet of this work. And Pluhar's violinist Veronika Skuplik is just as good as John Holloway and Manfredo Kraemer in their readings (on ECM New Series and Astrée, respectively). What sets the readings apart is simply the overall sense of the work's design and a willingness to take risks for the happy injection of drama into what we might consider boring, simply looking at the score. This is a well-performed, well-considered, delicious recording.