Elizabeth Kenny - Ars longa - The Observer

Increasingly, early music soloists and ensembles are embracing the challenge of commissioning new music for old instruments. There are three examples on Elizabeth Kenny’s Ars longa: Old and new music for theorbo (Linn) – by James MacMillan, from a 2011 work, and two new ones by Benjamin Oliver and Nico Muhly – all stylish uses of the pungently plucked sounds of this large-size lute. The theorbo is these days most often glimpsed poking up from the continuo groups in orchestras for baroque opera, but Kenny reassures us that “it is also just another big guitar”. She frames the premieres with toccatas that sound like improvisations, hypnotic chaconnes that weave around repeated bass lines, and Robert de Visée’s lovely tribute to his fellow Frenchman, Les Sylvains de Mr Couperin.

The Observer
02 June 2019