I vividly recall the first time I heard a piece by Kapsberger: I had absolutely no idea what it could be, where it came from, or from what master of the utterly strange, yet irresistably fascinating - it had sprung. What I had witnessed was the Capona - Sferraina; the second movement - or perhaps tableau, in the Libro Quarto d'Intavolatura di Chitarrone by early baroque eccentric Johann Hieronimus K. The encounter with a highly original sense of structure, both in way of rythmic variations and dynamic coherence - a rather subjective view of counterpoint and a delightful taste for strange harmonic and melodic building, makes Johann Hieronimus a man for those of us for whom the element of surprise is a welcome quality in the listeningprocess. But don't think that Kapsberger's music is of interest, merely because of a series of clever novelties that wear off on repeated listening. The originality sticks, the fascination continiues to strike even after a substantial number of spins. Kapsberger's idioms are of a truly wild nature.
Norwegian stringwizard Rolf Lislevand characterizes the original German as less than an accomplished composer. "Kapsberger is easily recognizable in that his works are lacking in the qualities that generally characterize a good composer." A wee bit harsh perchance, but Lislevand's highly informative notes in the booklet, give little room for the common unreflected droolings one often faces going through such writings. Lislevand's stated frustrations on attempting to construct a sense of coherence in his interpretations - where the composer's notations are of little or no help, gives us an idea of the originality of style Kapsberger insisted on, making performes utilize their every strand of creativity and musical understanding. The rewards are, however, substantial for those who succeed, like Rolf Lislevand and his companions. The lack of coherence and predictablity in structure, the - in the performers own words - badly developed ideas, the strange harmonic conceptions, are through the minds of these superb musicians transformed into music so utterly fascinating and compelling that I was immediately captured by it, and I have returned to this disc dozens of times - allways with the greatest joy and satisfaction.
There is wonderful and diverse music here to keep one captivated for ages. The two passacaglias (tracks 10 & 11), the allready mentioned Capona - Sferraina (track 2), the fascinating toccatas, and other tiny and priceless musical gems. The disc is concluded by a toccata taken from Kapsberger's first book of music for the theorbo. I can only gratefully second Lislevand's decision to include this dreamlike flight of a toccata, rounding of a disc that stands out in both originality and excellence of execution. It has, not surprisingly recieved a load of awards, and I urge you to audition it. This composer who in Lislevand's own words was: as bad a composer as he was a fine instrumentalist, is one to explore. You may well, as I have, end up with the conclusion that Kapsberger is the finest bad composer you've had the pleasure to cross paths with.