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A recording of the greatest Italian lutenist of the early renaissance by one the best lute players now living is something eagerly anticipated in lute circles, and this superb new album in no way disappoints. The recorded sound of Nigel North’s Malcolm Prior lute is delicious, with lovely balance of treble and bass across its range – something which North never fails to bring out in contrapuntal voice leading: the high notes on the top string sing out, but we hear every other voice too. The term virtuoso is overused nowadays, but Nigel North is the real deal, and from the first bar we sense his complete mastery of his instrument – he always plays exactly as he wants to. On this CD he gathers together 32 pieces, mostly recercars and fantasias (just two madrigal intabulations) in five ‘suites’ linked by mode or thematic material, inviting us to ‘imagine five sequences of sonnets; each sequence is about a particular love and each sonnet persuades us ... of the various beauties ... in the beloved’, an approach supported by quotations from the 16th century theorists on music as related to rhetoric; North makes the music ‘speak’ and takes us on an emotional journey of many colours and moods. I think this breaks new ground in the interpretation and integrated programming of Francesco on disc.

Christopher Goodwin Read the full review on Agora Classica

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