Elizabeth Kenny - Ars longa - BBC Radio Scotland 'Classics Unwrapped'

It's time for my album of the week and it's from Elizabeth Kenny. It's called Ars longa: Old and new music for theorbo, which is a rather elaborate long-necked lute. It spans five centuries of very diverse music from the theorbo specialist renowned for her inventive programming. So you've got the music of James MacMillan, Oliver Benjamin, Nicholas Muhly alongside other works from the seventeenth and eighteenth century composers like Kapsberger and this man, Piccinini. This is his Toccata X.

<plays Toccata X>

And that sets up beautifully what my album of the week is all about the extraordinary playing of Elizabeth Kenny on the theorbo.

This next piece of music is by Kapsberger from my album of the week. It is called Canario, and technically this is very demanding to play on the instrument. It requires big block chords.

<plays Canario - Capona>

I did love all the energy in that fantastic strumming going on there.

Brand new music on an ancient instrument next. It's from my album of the week, performed by Elizabeth Kenny, Old and new music for the theorbo. And next I've chosen some of that new music. It's Nicholas Muhly's Berceuse with Seven Variations. Each variation explores chords using the highest and lowest notes and on a long-necked lute that's a pretty long way. Here are two of Muhly's variations. Now the first, it sets out the twenty four chords that he uses throughout the variations. The last, the Coda, has that calm reassurance of a cradle song or a Berceuse.

<plays Cycle and Coda from Berceuse with Seven Variations>

Well my final track from my album of the week which is called Ars longa comes from the Grammy and Gramophone Award-winning artist Elizabeth Kenny. Now on this disc she also introduces us to what was happening in France in the seventeenth century for the theorbo and she introduces us to Robert de Visée who was a player/composer he was one of the king's musicians in the Sun King's band you could say. This is his  Suite in C minor  and it's the Gigue from that played by Elizabeth Kenny. 

<plays Suite in C minor: Gigue>

Well I hope you've enjoyed listening to my album of the week as much as I've enjoyed playing it to you. It's Elizabeth Kenny, wonderful playing on the theorbo and the CD is called Ars longa: Old and new music for theorbo

BBC Radio Scotland 'Classics Unwrapped'
17 November 2019