I love this disc. I really didn’t know whether I would, because mixtures of ancient and contemporary music often don’t work for me and the description and notes are rather pretentious, but the recording itself turns out to be fabulous.
Bruno Helstroffer is a very fine theorbo player. I love the sound of the theorbo, and he brings its wonderful resonances out beautifully. There is virtuosity in abundance here, but also a deep sense of the music, so he knows exactly when to cut loose and when to show restraint, and he understands the importance of “the space between the notes,” to which his background in playing blues and rock guitar must contribute considerably.
The music itself is excellent. Composers like Piccinini and Kapsberger are well known to lutenists and theorbo players and these pieces show why their reputations survive so well. Helstroffer’s own works are also excellent; I love his slightly wacky reworking of the minuet from Bach’s First Cello Suite (“Tea With Bach”), for example, and other originals show a wonderful blend of the early Baroque with often improvisatory-sounding styles which reminded me of guitarists like John Fahey, Leo Kottke, Michel Chapman and others. To cap it all, the disc concludes with the extraordinary and wonderful Vos Luths in which the instrument sounds almost like a sitar (and is probably the only recorded example of bottleneck slide on the theorbo).
I found Calling The Muse disc a delight from start to finish (with the sole exception of Dans la Chambre de mon Théorbe, a poem read in rather over-emphatic French above a Kapsberger piece). It’s enjoyable, interesting music, beautifully played and superbly recorded. Very warmly recommended.