Young Swedish instrumentalist Jonas Nordberg (I hesitate to call him merely a lutenist, as he plays everything from the Renaissance lute to the 19th-century guitar) has already proven himself a formidable musical and dramatic collaborator – witness his work with recorder player Dan Laurin and, separately, with choreographer Kenneth Kvarnström. However this, his debut solo recording, demonstrates for those who have yet to hear Nordberg in recital, just what a gifted poet of the lute and theorbo he is.
Indeed, one need only read his booklet notes to get something of the measure of his refined, somewhat melancholy, sensibility. Of Dufaut’s Tombeau de Mr. Blancrocher, he writes, “As the piece develops, however, unexpected harmonies appear like fierce stabs of pain. At some points the music is still as a millpond; at others, it seems as frustrated as a prisoner trying to break free from the chains of death.”
But the performance is the thing, and if Nordberg cannot yet count himself as a member of that pantheon of players which includes such luminaries as Rolf Lislevand, Fred Jacobs, Nigel North and Hopkinson Smith, he’s well on his way to reaching the summit of Mt Parnassus. One only has to listen to his sensitive, expressive handling of the four “suites” presented here – two by that great master of the Baroque guitar and theorbo, Robert de Visée, one by Bach’s famous contemporary SL Weiss, another by François Dufaut.
The preludes and allemandes are often as searching and meditative as the sarabandes and tombeaux; the chaconnes and faster dance movements such as the courantes and gigues are tastefully enlivened by supple trills and roulades; all benefit from expressive rhythmic shading and penumbral tonal washes. In short, this is an exceptional solo debut recording, and in many ways an ideal introduction to the crepuscular soundworld of the Baroque lute and theorbo.