Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger's (c.1580-1651) works for theorbo are virtuosic, exploratory and peculiar: his baffling and brilliant use of rhythm (at a time when most other virtuoso players were pounding the semi-quavers) stewed with his surprisingly-odd chromatic harmony lends his music an obscure and surprising quality. As a result of his unconventional style his direct musical influences are ephemeral. He spent most of his life working in the same household (Cardinal Barberini's: the nephew of Pope Urban VIII) in Rome as Girolamo Frescobaldi; inevitably close during their presumed co-development of the toccata form: – 'toccata' translates as 'touched' – but otherwise much of K's life and music eludes us. By the 1610s the toccata was a fantasy form born out of sixteenth-century preambulatory forms such as the prelude, ricercar and 'tastar de corde' (to tune the strings): juxtaposed sections of blindingly florid passages and fugal polyphony are abruptly joined in a theatrical improvisatory style.
This album focuses primarily on Kapsberger's preludes and toccatas with only a few dance movements (gagliarda, corrente etc.) thrown in for their notable and enjoyable peculiarities. All the pieces recorded are from Kapsberger's 3rd (1626) and 4th (1640) books for theorbo. Kapsberger's 2nd book of theorbo (chitarrone) music still remains to be found.
'[Kapsberger] with his superb genius and other scientific skills in which he was expert, successfully penetrated the secrets of music.'
Anathasius Kircher: Musurgia Universalis (1650)
Alex McCartney has a busy performing schedule which takes him to concert halls across the world.
Alex is a resident artist with his own record label Veterum Musica. In 2015 he released his debut solo album Mèsangeau's Experiments to critical acclaim: 'McCartney’s interpretation of this reflective music is stylish and sublime.' [LSA]. His second solo album Elizabeth's Lutes (released in June 2016) was similarly well received: 'This is a highly enjoyable disc, warmly recorded and expertly performed throughout.'
Nick Boston, Classical Notes.
Alex performs as a soloist with artists such as Iestyn Davies, Ensemble Libro Primo (Sabine Stoffer), Ensemble Marsyas (Peter Whelan), The Gabrieli Consort, Cupid and Death, and Poeticall Musicke.
As a continuo player, Alex's playing has been described as 'sinewy and sensuous, ornaments rarely exaggerated' [Observer]: he holds principal positions in La Nuova Musica and Poeticall Musicke and is delighted to perform regularly with all the UK-based baroque orchestras.
Alex is a life member of The Royal Society of Musicians.
Alex teaches the lute at the University of Aberdeen and in Glasgow.
In his spare time he enjoys making lutes.