Friday, December 14, 2012

La Ritirata performs in Tel Aviv

Following a workshop at the Lynn and Ted Arison Israel Conservatory of Music, Tel Aviv, “La Ritirata” performed an evening of early music December 1st 2012 at the same venue. The program focused on music of Spanish composers of the late Renaissance- and early Baroque periods, as well as music written by Italian composers having some connection with Spain. “La Ritirata”, a historically informed ensemble, is based in Madrid, Spain. Founded by ‘cellist Josetxu Obregón, the ensemble takes its name from the last movement of Luigi Boccherini’s “La Musica Notturna della strade di Madrid” (Night Music of the Streets of Madrid). The group performs regularly at prestigious concert venues and festivals and has recorded for the Verso, Arsis and Columna Música labels, receiving excellent revues. Ensemble members Tamar Lalo-recorders, Daniel Zapico-theorbo and Baroque guitar and Josetxu Obregón-‘cello were joined by harpsichordist Noam Krieger (Israel/Holland).  “Hispaniae Musica – In the Service of Kings and Noblemen” was an event under the auspices of the Spanish Embassy (Tel Aviv), the Israeli Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport and the National Institute of Performing Arts and Music (Spain).

The program opened with Venetian composer and chamber musician Dario Castello’s (c.1590-1630) Sonata no.1, a work of originality, of progressive- and free style; this was well reflected in Tamar Lalo’s spontaneous, flexed playing and ornamented lines. A player of fine technique and much temperament, Israeli-born Lalo takes her cue from each gesture and phrase, moving through playful tempo changes, to color the work with novel and fresh performance.

Naples, under direct Spanish rule during the 17th- and 18th centuries,  was the seat of power to the Spanish Viceroy, cultivating a hybrid Italian-Spanish musical aesthetic. An important contributor to this trend was Andrea Falconieri (1585-1656), who served as lutenist to the royal chapel and, from 1647 till his death, as maestro di capella. He traveled much, also spending time in Spain. Each of his many instrumental works bears a dedication to a member of the Spanish nobility living in Naples at the time. "La Ritirata" performed a number of these stylized dances - among them, courantes and allemandes as well as free compositions. The ensemble’s playing reflected the many-sided current influences of the time, the improvisory character of his works, their demands for instrumental virtuosity and the new monodic style now in vogue. La Ritirata’s bold performance of the pieces was entertaining, well punctuated and whimsical, reminding us that Falconieri was a free-spirited, outgoing and colorful character over whose pieces members of the court enthused. Lalo and Zapico’s (theorbo) poignant performance of Falconieri’s “La Suave Melodia” was true magic.

Another composer in the employ of the Spanish Viceroy in Naples was Diego Ortiz (1510-c.1570), who, in addition to his status as a leading Renaissance composer, wrote the first instruction book on ornamentation for string orchestras – a valuable source of information for today's players on performance practice of the time. Tamar Lalo and Daniel Zapico performed Ortiz’ “Recercadas sobre la canción Doulce Memoire”, based on a chanson (Sweet Memory) by French Renaissance composer Pierre Regnault Sandrin. The artists presented the work’s rhythmic sparkle and subtle patterning, with its delightfully agile recorder articulations, its fragments and scales; nevertheless, the underlying languorous mood of the piece was never far away. With Ortiz the mastermind behind the concept of elaboration on madrigals – often in the form of the ricercar – the “Ricercadas sobre tenores italianos” played by the quartet, indeed, “searched out” the melodic- and harmonic implications behind the basic tenor line in a variety of colors, textures and gestures. With Lalo on soprano recorder, the quartet also performed Bartolomé de Selma y Salaverde’s (c.1580-1640) Canzona III – a kaleidoscope of sparkling, virtuosic stylistic devices placed in contrasting sections.

For several years, Gaspar Sanz (1640-1710) was organist to the Spanish Viceroy in Naples, a city whose popular dances were to eventually inspire some of his guitar works. A true highlight of the concert was Zapico’s poetic theorbo performance of Sanz’ “Españoletas”, one of Spain’s most beautiful melodies, set in variation form; Zapico's playing displayed the height of delicacy and musical shaping, producing music of the senses that thrilled the audience.

Domenico Gabrielli (1659-1690), a virtuoso ‘cellist, composed nine operas as well as instrumental- and vocal church music, but he is best remembered for having composed among the first works for solo ‘cello, freeing it from its role as an undifferentiated bass instrument. In the last two years of his life, he composed seven solo ricercari. Playing on an original Sebastian Klotz ‘cello dating from 1740, Josetxu Obregón, the artistic director of the group, performed Gabrielli’s Ricercari nos. I and V. His reading of them went far beyond the score's inclusion of multiple stopping and florid passagework, large leaps and surprise modulations. Using rubato for expressive purposes, hand in glove with his emotional signature style, he takes the listener on a musical adventure rich in sonority and colors, through the intricacies of music which utilizes from one single melodic strand to multiple layers. Another Bologna composer, Giuseppe Maria Jacchini (1667-1727) had been a violoncello student of  Domenico Gabrielli, then becoming an instrumentalist in the “capella musicale” of the San Petronio Basilica, gaining fame as a ‘cellist. His works brought prominence to the ‘cello as a solo instrument. His opus 1 consists of two ‘cello sonatas, these being the earliest original compositions for ‘cello with basso continuo accompaniment. We heard a beautifully crafted performance of Sonata per Camera opus 1 no. 8 in a minor (c.1692) played by Obregón and Zapico (on theorbo).  
In 16th- and 17th century Italy, the use of solo bass instruments was now becoming ever more popular; particularly favored, chaconnes, passacaglias, ruggieros and bergamescas were considered to be hypnotic and seductive music. Of these works, we heard Bologna-born singer and ‘cellist Giovanni Battista Vitali’s (1632-1692) “Toccata y Bergamesca per la lettera B”, one of a selection of early, refined works for ‘cello (and violin) from the prestigious Este court in Modena. Obregón and Zapico (the latter now on Baroque guitar) highlighted the variety of ideas possible in works built over an ostinato – from intensive, driving moments to poignant, fragile utterances.
Spanish composer and organist of Valencia Cathedral, Juan Bautista José Cabanilles (1644-1712), considered by some to be the greatest Spanish Baroque composer, indeed, the most prolific, has at times been referred to as the “Spanish Bach”. Harpsichordist Noam Krieger performed Cabanilles’ “Corrente Italiana”, a work displaying the composer’s penchant for contrapuntal complexity, expressive dissonances, florid ornamentation and virtuosic writing. Krieger’s articulate presentation gave the audience a glimpse into the composer’s taste for foreign elements together with tradition and novelty.

A work on the program using a theme familiar to the audience was Peter Phillips’ (1560-1628) “Amarilli di Julio Romano”, based on Caccini’s well-known love song, and, clearly part of Phillips’ oeuvre composed before he took his vows as a priest. Phillips transformed the song and its elaboration into the highly detailed and ornamented language of the keyboard, with Krieger spinning its notes into runs, trills and arpeggios throughout the piece’s intricate structure, also creating mood shifts, with the bitter-sweet Amaryllis love song  ever present.
The music of German-Italian virtuoso Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger (c.1580-1651), a composer devoted to the systematic avoidance of clichés, focused on the invention of new techniques.  Within a short time, Kapsberger, writing for the newly developed theorbo, managed to create an innovative, virtuosic solo style inspired by the instrument’s possibilities. We heard Daniel Zapico in a well profiled, dynamic and truly bewitching performance of Kapsberger’s Chaconne in d minor, performed on the theorbo.  

Comprising of a number of short works mostly unfamiliar to local concert audiences, the program offered the listener a variety of pieces ranging from the elegant to the earthy, and at the hands of very fine early music specialists.

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