CD “Intavolatura” review – American Record Guide n° 2/2017

“Intavolatura” refers to tablature, the method of writing out plucked-string music and some keyboard music in fingering numerals, instead of with note-heads in a score. Giovanni Girolamo Kapsperger (c1580-1651) published six books of music for chitarrone (like a theorbo or bass lute), along with some for other plucked instruments, and vocal music. Books 2, 5, and 6 are lost. Stefano Maiorana has selected pieces from the other three books (1604, 1626, and 1640) to give a survey of the varied styles, and appended a coda of his own to one of the pieces. I can see from the tablature that he is adding much more than that— all to the good, getting inside each piece and playing it like a fresh improvisation. We get dance music, variation sets, free-sounding toccatas and preludes, a battle piece, and several of the composer’s ornamented arrangements of madrigals by Gesualdo and Arcadelt. The packaging disagrees with itself, spelling the composer’s name both as “Kapsberger” and “Kapsperger”. The composer’s first book (very neatly printed) has it with the second P, but you will usually find it as in our heading. Even in the most vigorous sections, the instrument’s tone is gentle and low. I find it relaxing to turn off my brain and let this spontaneous sounding and often amorphous music wash over me. It’s difficult to guess what is coming next in it, but it all sounds secure and clever. The booklet says Maiorana is a professor of lute, having also earned degrees in guitar and architecture. Let’s hope for sequels from this terrific player. There isn’t much competition for this album; it fills a repertoire niche. I have not heard the recording of Book 1 by Hopkinson Smith (J/F 2003). Book 3 was not available to Paul O’Dette in 1989 for his excellent album “Il Tedesco della Tiorba” (Harmonia Mundi, July/Aug 2008). Half of that program is played on lute, and half on chitarrone. There is only one two-minute piece in common with Maiorana, who plays it at a slightly lower pitch and elaborates its texture.

B. Lehman
American Record Guide n° 2/2017