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Music from the ML Lutebook
Mysterious doodles on a 17th-century manuscript provided Liz Kenny with the inspiration for this fascinating disc. The ownership of the ML Lutebook has been attributed to a number of court musicians from its discovery in 1912, but it was the name ‘Margaret’ occasionally scrawled throughout the copy which caught the contemporary performer’s imagination. Kenny writes that ‘this chimed with the train of thought that was beginning to focus on what and who these books were compiled for, rather than on any single composer who wrote them, and put it in line with other books belonging to Jane Pickeringe and Margaret Board (lute), Elizabeth Rogers (virginals), and Lady Ann Blount (singing), where a remarkable level of virtuosity was associated with private performance by women. There are plenty of great men and great tunes within its covers but ‘Margaret’ has remained in my mind over the years that I’ve been fascinated by the book’. The Flying Horse (track 24) is an anonymous piece that seems to sum up the spirit of the book, a ground bass spiced up with an exotic chord of A flat and an incitement to improvise. Works by Dowland, Johnson, Bacheler, Sturt and others summon up an exhilarating musical world influenced by the court, the theatre and the cries of the street, and where mansucripts, passed from hand to hand, became palimpsests of the perfomer’s own art.
Liz Kenny, arguably the greatest lutenist of today, performs this entrancing collection with an aplomb and flair that seems to directly channel those virtuoso performers who were handed the music with the ink still wet on the page.
“…a unique snapshot of contemporary performances styles, with sober Elizabethan and early Jacobean danced and ditties dressed up in elaborate Baroque garb - rich in ornamentation, fashionably French. Elizabeth Kenny offers discrete yet highly responsive interpretations with feathery, fleet finger-work throughout, and both left- and right-hand embellishments sounding effortless and organic-subtle adornments to the music's architecture. ...a fine balance of scholarship, technology and first-rate performance.” BBC Music Magazine, November 2009 ****
“The listener…able to savour the individual qualities of each work… marvelling not only at Kenny's acute sense of local colour, form and texture but also her considerable technical prowess, the latter especially obvious in the profuse ornamentation and extended divisions throughout.” Gramophone Magazine, Awards Issue 2009
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Robert Johnson: The Prince’s Almain
and other Dances for Lute
Playing a golden-toned 10-course lute and using original manuscript sources or his own sensitive reconstructions, British lutenist Nigel North presents a delightful recital of dances by Robert Johnson, a contemporary of Shakespeare for whose plays he wrote songs and incidental music.
Although they use the old forms of pavan, galliard, almain and fantasie, Johnson’s exquisite works tend towards the more expansive, lyrical style that would later flourish in the Baroque period.
Nigel North’s critically acclaimed boxed set of Dowland’s Complete Lute Music is also available (8504016).
“Johnson's earlier dance music includes galliards and almains, simple pieces largely of melody and bass...North's playing reflects their function, metrical with only the barest slowing up as the dance sequence ends...In contrast to such extrovert movements are the four Pavans, beautifully crafted in often sustained counterpoint...North plays these most thougthfully.” BBC Music Magazine, February 2011 *****
“As always, North's playing is a wonder, an easy, natural musicality and an impeccable technique complemented by a real ear for colour and nuance of expression.” Gramophone Magazine, March 2011
BBC Music Magazine
Instrumental Choice - February 2011
(also available to download from $6.00)
Usually despatched in 2 - 3 working days. (Available now to download.)