Mysterious doodles on a 17th-century manuscript provided Liz Kenny with the inspiration for this fascinating disc. The ownership of the ML Lutebook has been attributed to a number of court musicians from its discovery in 1912, but it was the name ‘Margaret’ occasionally scrawled throughout the copy which caught the contemporary performer’s imagination. Kenny writes that ‘this chimed with the train of thought that was beginning to focus on what and who these books were compiled for, rather than on any single composer who wrote them, and put it in line with other books belonging to Jane Pickeringe and Margaret Board (lute), Elizabeth Rogers (virginals), and Lady Ann Blount (singing), where a remarkable level of virtuosity was associated with private performance by women. There are plenty of great men and great tunes within its covers but ‘Margaret’ has remained in my mind over the years that I’ve been fascinated by the book’.
The Flying Horse (track 24) is an anonymous piece that seems to sum up the spirit of the book, a ground bass spiced up with an exotic chord of A flat and an incitement to improvise. Works by Dowland, Johnson, Bacheler, Sturt and others summon up an exhilarating musical world influenced by the court, the theatre and the cries of the street, and where mansucripts, passed from hand to hand, became palimpsests of the perfomer’s own art.
Liz Kenny, arguably the greatest lutenist of today, performs this entrancing collection with an aplomb and flair that seems to directly channel those virtuoso performers who were handed the music with the ink still wet on the page.