Kapsberger; Piccinini Chamber Works
The freer style of the early decades of the 17th century – where structural and melodic certainty got dumped for a more instant emotional gratification – is all very well so long as the listener has some way to track the meanderings which characterise a good deal of this repertoire. Have no such fear in this splendid celebration of the large early-Baroque lute (theorbo or chitarrone): Matthew Wadsworth has an imperious command of some impressive solo material, building his own unerring interpretative web around the improvisatory bare bones of two leading pioneers of the instrument, both active in Italy in the early 1600s.
Wadsworth glories in the fleeting mysteries of these works, allowing the notes to speak with unequivocal conviction in the nobly-conceived Toccatas, spinning a yarn (so to speak) with all manner of tonal deviation and colouristic affect – and never resorting to the type of neurotic distractions which can lose the likes of Piccinini deserved friends. Toccata VI is the pièce de résistance for all concerned here, finely conceived and executed.
The programme moves skilfully through the range of idioms upon which solo and ensemble music was constructed at the time, including passacaglias, galliards, correntes and so on. Wadsworth is intermittently joined by the poised and beautifully judged playing of Gary Cooper and Mark Levy; only in one or two places could collective intonation have been a little more fussily checked. The prevailing satisfaction here is Wadsworth’s visceral engagement with the resonance of the music, of which his 14 Silver Strings – as the disc is appropriately entitled – are radiantly caught by engineer Patrick Naylor at the Centre of Early Music in York. This is a recital where sonic luxuriance affords character in its own right. For all the refined and delectable brilliance of Piccinini’s music, Kapsberger’s raw immediacy establishes a special place in the mind as his enigmatic D minor Passacaglia confirms, as well as the smouldering Toccata II. These are highly enterprising and enjoyable performances.