Calling the Muse
Old & New Pieces for Theorbo: works by Castaldi, Helstroffer, Kapsberger, Piccinini, Satie etc.
Bruno Helstroffer (theorbo); with Rosemary Standley (voice), Jean-Luc Debattice (narrator), Michel Godard (serpent), Emek Evci (double bass)
Alpha Classics ALPHA 391 53:11 mins
This disc of old and new pieces for theorbo is something of a whimsical curiosity. Here, Baroque composers Piccinini, Kapsberger and Castaldi rub shoulders with Erik Satie and a profusion of vocal and instrumental compositions and arrangements by Bruno Helstroffer. I am still not quite sure what to make of it all, but there is a part of me which inclines towards regarding the compilation as self-indulgent nonsense. Certainly, I do not wish to be either unfair or unkind, so perhaps the most helpful way to inform the reader is to quote Helstroffer’s own concept of his programme: ‘It’s a road map… It’s a hurly-burly account of my years playing blues and rock music and early music; the thousands of miles I’ve travelled with my wonderful theorbo, cities, landscapes, railways, skies, scents, lights; above all – the music of the people I’ve met.’
Taken as a road map, as Helstroffer invites us to do, there are plenty of stopping-off places to enjoy, among which the Kapsberger pieces and, surprisingly the Satie Gnossienne No. 1 are among the most rewarding. My sensibilities responded less favourably to the song Comme un Beffroi and a lengthy poem dedicated to Helstroffer, written and read by the actor and writer Jean-Luc Debattice. This last-mentioned might almost be considered as a quasi musical answer to the selfie, and sits uncomfortably with the remainder of the programme, eccentric as it is. Recorded sound affords clarity to the vocal items but is too reverberant for the theorbo. Proceed with caution!