WORKS: 14 Silver Strings: Toccatas, Partitas & Dances
PERFORMER: Matthew Wadsworth (theorbo), Gary Cooper (harpsichord, organ), Mark Levy (viola da gamba, lirone, violone)
CATALOGUE NO: DXL 1044
Until recently, Giovanni Kapsberger was virtually unknown outside specialist circles, but thanks to several enterprising recording projects, and the discovery of a manuscript in 2001, his music has begun to reach a wider audience. Kapsberger was famous in his adopted Italy as ‘The German Theorbo Player’, and his virtuosity is everywhere evident in these inventive pieces: improvisatory toccatas, mesmerising variations on ground basses, felicitous dances, and his very own signature tune – the hypnotic ‘Kapsberger’.
The music of his Italian contemporary Alessandro Piccinini may be less eccentric, but it is every bit as rich in drama and rhetoric – qualities which are exploited to fine effect by Matthew Wadsworth. This is impressive playing by a musician who speaks the Baroque musical language like a native. The theorbo has a potent, sonorous sound and expressive and technical capabilities which make it an excellent solo instrument. Add to its ‘14 silver strings’ five continuo instruments and the virtuoso fingers of Gary Cooper and Mark Levy and the result is an iridescent kaleidoscope of colour and texture.
The recorded sound is detailed and well-balanced, though it has the slightly cold ambience of an empty church. Bar that slight caveat this is a hugely enjoyable disc.