The Ricercar Consort is an ensemble of instrumentalists devoted to repertory largely from the seventeenth century. It is generally considered one of the foremost chamber groups in the genre of Baroque music. Active for about three decades, it has already made over 50 recordings and given countless concerts across the globe. The ensemble consists of about six members, though the number can vary to accommodate performance of small and large works. Many of its concerts and recordings, for example, involve singers, while others are strictly instrumental. The group's name derives is Italian and pertains to a type of sixteenth and seventeenth century genre of instrumental music, typically contrapuntal and often involving the organ. While the repertory has embraced mostly Baroque-era music, the Ricercar Consort has ventured into the Classical period and received special praise for its complete Haydn Baryton Octets. It has recorded for its own label, Ricercar, and for the lesser known French label Mirare.
The Ricercar Consort was formed in Belgium in 1980 along with the Ricercar label. The director of the ensemble is Philippe Pierlot, who is accomplished on the viola da gamba and baryton, the instrument on which he was the soloist in the ensemble's acclaimed Haydn recordings. Guest artists regularly appearing with the group include Henri Ledroit (countertenor), Max van Egmond (baritone), and Carlos Mena (countertenor).
Among the consort's most important early recordings was its 1983 disc on Ricercar of cantatas and motets by Johann Christoph and Johann Michael Bach. Over the years the consort made many successful recordings of music by Bach family members, most notably of works by J.S. Bach. In 1985 the Ricercar Consort made its first international tour, giving a series of successful performances of J.S. Bach's Musicalisches Opfer. By the early '90s, the ensemble was in demand across Europe, making notable appearances at the most prestigious early music festivals, including the popular French Festival de Saintes and the Festival des Flandres.
By the end of the 1990s the ensemble was taking on larger works: its 1999-2000 season, for example, included performances of Marais' Semele and Alessandro Scarlatti's St. John Passion.
In 2002 the Ricercar Consort received the prestigious French Diapason d'Or award for its CD De Aeternitate with countertenor Carlos Mena. Among the consort's recordings is the 2008 Mirare CD Stabat Mater, which contains works by several composers, including Bertali, Sances, Leopold I, and Schmelzer.
- Robert Cummings (All Music Guide)