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Matthew Wadsworth (theorbo) with Gary Cooper (harpsichord) Mark Levy (lirone, viola da gamba & violone) and Eligio Quinteiro (baroque guitar)

Wigmore Hall 21 February 2003










Matthew Wadsworth's Wigmore Hall recital, supported by Gary Cooper, Mark Levy and Eligio Quinteiro, marked the launch of his debut CD. It was an inspiring concert, and this scholar-player joins the illustrious ranks of blind virtuosi alongside renowned organists and other musicians who have triumphed against physical handicaps. He studied at RAM, won the London student of the year award for developing Braille lute tablature, and is well established as a continuo player and chamber musician throughout Europe.

The bass lute (chitarrone, or theorbo) attracts attention in period orchestras with its great length, rising out of an opera pit, but its voice is soft and delicate and frustratingly is often absorbed in the general sound of the ensemble. At the Wigmore Hall, Matthew Wadsworth took the first half solo, guiding himself on and off the stage with a practically invisible thread (it brought to mind Ariadne's) which was only noticeable as it was being removed for the second half so that Matthew's colleagues could move around freely.

The music was mainly by two relatively unknown 17C composers who specialised in writing for this bass lute, plus a useful commission by Andrew Keeling, MirAre. Kapsberger (c.1580-1651) the more improvisational, an eccentric composer devoted to systematic avoidance of cliche and invention of original techniques, Piccini (1566-c.1638) the more expressive, introducing ornamentation, vibrato, rubato and changes in tone colour.

They make a satisfying pairing and the Deux Elles CD DXL 1044 has the groups of short pieces mixing solos with items accompanied by harpsichord and organ, viola da gamba, lirone and violone, which is better for the non-specialist listener. The rich, dark tone of the theorbo is captured perfectly in this recording. Deux Elles supplies braille listing on the CD case. If you sometimes feel that full symphony orchestras are not the best house companions, I can recommend this calming msic for late night listening. Matthew Wadsworth is a founder member of Ricordo, whose LINN debut CD CKD 195 was recently acclaimed in Music Net.

Peter Grahame Woolf

see also Thomas Quasthoff recital