The "10" is currently likely to be something of a magical number for the historically informed ensemble La Ritirata, celebrating its tenth anniversary this year and releasing its tenth album, Neapolitan Concertos for Various Instruments. The Madrid-based ensemble, which is as successful in the Far East as it is in Spain and other European countries, is led by cellist Josetxu Obregon, founder of La Ritirata, who was among other a student of Anner Bylsama, who is now himself a cello teacher at the Real Conservatorio Superior in Madrid, and who was and is a soloist with various European orchestras of the early music scene including Le Concert des Nations (Jordi Savall). La Ritirata consists mainly of historically informed musicians specializing in baroque music of the younger and youngest generation. The soloists include such renowned musicians as the violinist Hiro Kurosaki, the flutist Tamar Lalo, the harpsichordists Ignacio Prego and Daniel Oyarzabalnd and Josetxu Obregon on the cello.
Among the exponents of the Neapolitan Baroque in the first half of the eighteenth century are the composers Giovanni Battista Pergolesi and Alessandro Scarlatti, who are still familiar to us today, but also Francesco Mancini, Nicola Porpora and Nicola Fiorenza, all of them to be heard on the new La Ritirata album with strikingly individual concerts. The style of music of these Neapolitans is largely independent and it usually differs greatly from the style of the Venetians, such as Antonio Vivaldi. Since the music of the Neapolitans is less familiar to today's listeners than the music of the Venetians, the new La Ritirata album is especially welcome.
The rich colorfulness of the six concerts powerfully made blossoming by La Ritirata and the astonishing individuality of these concerts ensure the exploration of this album being an exciting adventure for the listener. The violin concerto in D major by Nicola Fiorenza captivates with its effervescent gesture, the enormous demands on the solo violin, including hair-raising double stops, extremely high registers and insane trills. Scarlatti's Flute Concerto in C major forms a counterpoint to this, whose high artistic standards are expressed in a masterly command of the counterpoint, an upscale style and moderate expressivity. Francesco Mancini, who was primarily known for his operas, treats the flute in his G Minor Concerto as carefully as an opera singer, who must not be covered by the accompanying orchestra. Also primarily concerned with the composition of operas Antonio Porpora expresses the special idiomatic of the Neapolitans in an unmistakable way, as in his concerto for violoncello, violins and basso continuo. Battista Pergolesi, best known as the originator of the opera La serva Padrona and his still performed Stabat Mater, contributes a concerto for two harpsichords and strings to the La Ritirata album, using both keyboards equally, but without allowing them to compete. Instead, the harpsichords mainly act in alternation, interlacing their melodic lines only in the slow movement. This is quite unusual for today's listeners, but always ensures optimal transparency of the composition.
The Ensemble La Ritirata, which together with the excellent soloists ensures a highly exciting presentation of the concerts of Neapolitan Baroque composers, finally joins the phalanx of international top ensembles for early music with its tenth album.
Josetxu Obregón, conductor