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GRAMOPHONE (06/1991)
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Harmonia Mundi
HMG 507020

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Reviewer: John Duarte


Were Giovanni Girolamo Kapsperger, a German of noble birth who lived and worked in Venice, alive today he would be termed a 'character', if only on account of the amusing single-line drawings punctuating his tablature book of 1611 (some appear in the inlay booklet) and the frequent waywardness of his music; some years ago a student of mine, engaged in transcribing the whole of this book, repeatedly asked me "Can you believe this?". She might have said as much of some of the keyboard toccatas of Rossi, had she known them, though they contain little to match the eccentricity of Kapsperger's Colascione, with its leisurely glissando to a diminished fifth that a devotee of be-bop might applaud!


However much lute and chitarrone music you may have heard, it will leave you unprepared for what Kapsperger offers: his studious avoidance of clichés leads him into some astonishing rhythmic and harmonic adventures , and his technical innovations are calculated to give a hard time to any but the most proficient of players - this must be said since O'Dette's performances give no hint of it. In his concise and splendidly informative annotation O'Dette refers to the bitter criticism Kapsperger attracted in his own time and, given the audaciously non-conformist character of his music - and, perhaps even more unforgivably, his impish sense of humour- it is little wonder; today we may more properly be grateful for it. A few items have been recorded by others, but this is the only current CD of this stimulating music. The quality of both performances and recording is exceedingly difficult to fault.


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