Stephen Goss: Theorbo Concerto

Matthew Wadsworth (theorbo); Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Benjamin Marquise Gilmore (Deux-Elles)

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Stephen Goss
Theorbo Concerto
Matthew Wadsworth (theorbo); Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Benjamin Marquise Gilmore
Deux-Elles DXL1182 (digital-only release)   19:23 mins

The world’s ‘first concerto for theorbo’ is unashamedly clever. Listen without the contextual notes and you experience a sensory whirlwind in which the theorbo is catapulted into the present, reinventing itself with a range of extended techniques and, under Matthew Wadsworth’s deft fingers, soloistic effects it never knew it was capable of. Between the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s tightly-executed themes that combine a whiff of Elgar and Shostakovich with Bach and Blues, Wadsworth shimmers, jostles, and dances – holding his own in this new territory. The age-old challenge of its audibility not only relies on careful amplification, but also fuels Goss’s trademark sudden gear changes and stark contrasts.

Back to the top with reference to the programme notes this time and a whole new intricately-designed world emerges. With David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas as inspiration, the four movements ‘Prelude’, ‘Scherzo’, ‘Passacaglia’, and ‘Finale’ not only flit between time and place but interweave variations on a theme alongside a waltz, siciliana, tarantella, Mexican huapango, and both ground and boogy-woogie bass lines. Three interlacing interludes – in which Wadsworth (plus double bass) expertly accompany violin, viola, and cello in turn – give moments of repose and remind us of the theorbo’s resonant roots before its next wild adventure.

Hannah French

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