From the very first notes, this is an absolutely delightful programme of baroque instrumental music. Among the many collections of period dance music available on disc, this one stands out for two reasons: firstly, the very distinctive Latin flavour of the music, mainly from the context of the period of Spanish rule over the Kingdom of Naples; and secondly the brilliant, spirited performances by this engaging young group of players who form the Spanish early music group La Ritirata under their excellent director Josetxu Obregón.
The pieces chosen form a splendidly lively programme with a welcome variety of mood, pace and texture. About half the pieces are by the Neapolitan Andrea Falconieri (1585-1656), and several other Italian and Spanish composers are also represented including Ortiz, Vitali, Cabanilles and Giovanni Gabrieli. There are a few more serious, reflective pieces, such as Jacchini's Sonata (11) and Selma y Salaverde's Fantasia (15), which stretch the description of `dance music' somewhat but add appropriate contrast to the mixture.
The music is performed by the ten players of La Ritirata on a nicely balanced and contrasted range of period instruments including violins, cello, recorder, keyboard, various plucked strings and occasional percussion. Among my own favourites are the opening, foot-tapping Recercadas by Ortiz, Falconieri's Folias (track 14), a further sequence by the same composer in tracks 17-20 including the title work Il Spiritillo Brando, and the lovely, syncopated Chacona (21) by an anonymous master but sometimes attributed elsewhere to Antonio Martín y Coll. This latter is beautifully played on the harpsichord by Ignacio Prego, and I only wish it were two or three times longer than its two minutes. In fact all the instrumental work is fabulous, but I would single out Tamar Lalo who deserves a medal for her miraculous virtuosity and panache on the recorder.
The recorded sound is spot-on and the booklet notes are outstanding, with full details of works, sources and instrumentation, ample interesting coverage of history, musical background, composers and of the chosen pieces, as well as some engaging photos of the performers at work. Altogether this is lovely, spirited music-making by a terrific ensemble, and I hope we'll be hearing plenty more from them.