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CD Review

14 Silver Strings

  • Giovanni Kapsberger:
  • Toccata IX
  • Toccata X
  • Passacaglia in A minor
  • Canzone prima
  • Ballo Primo
  • Passacaglia in D minor
  • Toccata II
  • Arpeggiata
  • Canario
  • Alessandro Piccinini:
  • Toccata XIII
  • Partite variate sopra la folia aria Romanesca
  • Corrente prima
  • Toccata III
  • Gagliarda prima
  • Toccata VI
  • Corrente VI sopra l'Alemana
  • Toccata X
  • Partite variate sopra quest' aria francese detta l'Alemana
Matthew Wadsworth, theorbo
Gary Cooper, keyboards
Mark Levy, baroque strings
Deux Elles DXL1044
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Launched in Wigmore Hall, London, at an inspiring concert, this debut CD is a delight and to be celebrated for its unique qualities as for the scholar-player Matthew Wadsworth's triumph over adversity. He joins the illustrious ranks of blind virtuosos, alongside renowned organists and other musicians who have triumphed against physical handicap. There is of course no concession sought or offered, the only discreet hint Braille listing on the CD case (he won the London student of the year award for developing Braille lute tablature). Matthew Wadsworth is well established as a continuo player and chamber musician throughout Europe, and a founder member of Ricordo, whose debut CD of Biber was recently acclaimed in Classical Net.

The chitarrone, or theorbo, attracts attention in period orchestras with its great length, rising out of an opera pit, but its delicate, soft voice is often frustratingly absorbed in the general sound of the ensemble. The music is entirely devoted to two relatively unknown composers who specialised in writing for this bass lute, Giovanni Kapsberger (c.1580-1651) the more improvisational, an eccentric composer devoted to systematic avoidance of cliché and invention of original techniques, Alessandro Piccinini (1566-c.1638) the more expressive, introducing ornamentation, vibrato, rubato and changes in tone colour. They make a satisfying pairing and the CD has the groups of short pieces mixing solos with items accompanied by harpsichord and organ, viola da gamba, lirone and violone. It is beautifully recorded and supplied with full notes and background information by Matthew Wadsworth himself.

If you sometimes feel that full symphony orchestras are not the best house companions, I can recommend as a pleasant accompaniment to a meal, as we have enjoyed it, or ideal for late night listening.

Copyright © 2003, Peter Grahame Woolf