Rolf Lislevand

November 14, 2006

If you’re curious to hear the music our ancestors wrote for the guitar, lute, and related instruments, you’ll want to listen to Norwegian baroque guitarist Rolf Lislevand and his ensemble. On Nuove Musiche, the seven-piece group tackles compositions by Italian composers who lived in the late 1500s into the mid 1600s. In addition to Lislevand’s archlute, theorboe, and baroque guitar, we hear such exotic stringed instruments as the triple harp, colascione, nyckelharpa, chitarra battente, and clavichord. Rather than attempt to recreate the sound of these “early music” pieces as they were originally performed, Lislevand and crew take a modern tack, adding upright bass, hand percussion, and generous reverb, and trusting their own sense of timbre, tempo, and rhythm. Several pieces also feature haunting female vocals, also bathed in reverb and mostly wordless. The result is a satisfying blend of classical technique, lively group improvisation, and ambient sonics, captured with state-of-the-art mics and recording gear. The pieces may be 400 years old, but their spirit is timeless. (ECM.)
—Andy Ellis

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