Composers: Kapsberger
Compositions: Intavolatura di Chitarone
Performers: Jonas Nordberg theorbo
Catalogue Number: BIS BIS2417

Kapsberger wrote most of his music for what I’ve always thought of as one of the most dramatic-looking instruments, the theorbo. The long neck extension gives the player a whole new set of extra open strings, which makes for plenty of headaches in terms of travel but does mean a wonderfully low bass range. He described it as being ideal for accompanying the voice, but this disc certainly demonstrates how well it suits solo performance, too. Jonas Nordberg is indeed an excellent lutenist, with a delicious sense of inevitability to his phrasing. That’s particularly useful with Kapsberger’s music, since so much of it is so unpredictable – his Toccata Arpeggiata, for instance, is notated only as a series of chords which the player has full licence to arpeggiate however they please.

The programming is cleverly organised, too. Nordberg vividly contrasts Kapsberger’s early Libro Primo works of the beginning of the 17th century with his Libro Quarto of more than 35 years later. So, you have the formal organisation of the variations in the Aria di Fiorenza before running into the quirky imitation of the later Battaglia, complete with “horn calls” and “drums”. I particularly like BIS’s recording here (they’ve had plenty of lute experience), since Nordberg’s thunderous low range comes across with plenty of strength and clarity.

This is Nordberg’s debut disc for BIS, and I can say without reservation that I’m keen to hear more. Solo theorbo discs aren’t for everyone, but this is worth investigating.