A unique lute, built by Sixtus Rauwolf in Augsburg around 1590, was the starting point for this very special recital, which incorporates lute songs and solos by composers from different parts of Europe around 1600. Presenting a wealth of forms and national styles - from French airs de cour to Elizabethan pavans and examples of early Italian monody - the disc is a fascinating survey of the musical life of the time. But in the hands of these interpreters it becomes much more than that: Emma Kirkby and Jakob Lindberg, playing his historic lute, bring this music to life with incomparable immediacy. It is as if we were present when Shakespeare first heard Robert Johnson’s setting of his ’Full fathom five’, Ariel’s song from The Tempest, or when Georg Schimmelpfennig, court composer to Landgrave Moritz in Kassel, showed the daughter of his employer the florid solo madrigal ’Dolce tempo passato’, set to her own poem.
Some of the names represented on this album are familiar to all: John Dowland, with three songs, and Heinrich Schütz, with one of his Kleine geistliche Konzerte, a setting of Psalm 70. Others, like Schimmelpfennig or the Antwerp-born lutenist Gregory Huwet, are far less known to the general public. But all of them created musical jewels, which Emma Kirkby and Jakob Lindberg - collaborators of long standing - have gathered together into a glittering diadem encircling a large part of Europe at the dawn of the 17th century.