Elizabeth Kenny

Ars longa: Old and new music for theorbo

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In use since the late Renaissance and throughout the Baroque era, the theorbo -- a large lute with an extended bass range -- was often employed in basso continuo accompaniment, though unlike the more common harpsichord, was less frequently treated as a solo instrument. Elizabeth Kenny's 2019 release on Linn explores some of the early music for the theorbo, as well as three contemporary works that have been composed in a spirit of reviving its utility. The early pieces of Alessandro Piccinini, Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger, and Robert de Visée offer excellent examples of the theorbo's general application in the expected forms, whether in free toccatas or more conventional Baroque dances, such as the ciaconna, corrente, and passacaglia, and Kenny shows herself to be adept in the ornate counterpoint that shows the theorbo to be much more than a harmony instrument. The early music movement of the late 20th and early 21st centuries has brought the theorbo back from centuries of obscurity, and the modern works by James MacMillan, Benjamin Oliver, and Nico Muhly show fresh potential for its dark tone colors and vibrant textures. The recording in Cooper Hall, Frome, Somerset gives the room considerable spaciousness, though the sound is focused and detailed, preventing the murkiness that often attends low-range instruments in overly resonant acoustics.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 03:05 Amazon
2 02:08 Amazon
3 01:42 Amazon
4 06:26 Amazon
5 03:13 Amazon
6 01:28 Amazon
7 02:00 Amazon
8 03:16 Amazon
9 03:33 Amazon
10 06:03 Amazon
11 03:09 Amazon
12 08:20 Amazon
Suite in C minor
13 00:53 Amazon
14 04:42 Amazon
15 01:40 Amazon
16 03:24 Amazon
17 02:06 Amazon
18 01:04 Amazon
19 03:34 Amazon
Berceuse with seven variations
20 01:38 Amazon
21 01:48 Amazon
22 01:55 Amazon
23 01:30 Amazon
24 02:29 Amazon
25 01:33 Amazon
26 02:41 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick