Urbino Musica Antica 2022

Emma Kirkby

/// Canto

Periodo: giovedì 21 - lunedì 25 luglio
Emma Kirkby


This course will focus on 17th century (Seicento) continuo song in England and Italy, two marvellous traditions each with its own distinct character.  In both countries there were great composers such as Dowland, Monteverdi, Strozzi, Purcell; and others around them, also writing fine and fascinating music: Notari, Danyel, Caccini, Carissimi, Lawes, Scarlatti, Blow, and many more.. This music is often brief and  can be brought to life with simple forces, yet is full of passion, drama, eloquence and humour. Some solo songs and duets will be sent to course members in advance, and they are also free to bring pieces of their own choice, provided these are in clear versions, as near as possible to the original image , showing vocal line and bass, and in the composer’s key or one compatible with it.

We will have harpsichord available throughout, and from 23rd July, hopefully some lute or theorbo presence as well.

La docente

Emma Kirkby has had much good fortune, mainly the luck of “being in the right place at the right time”.  As a university student she sang in an excellent choir, falling in love especially with Renaissance polyphony, but also, crucially, she heard fellow students starting to play historical instruments, the lute, harpsichord and early wind and strings, whose sound inspired her immediately. Her interest was always to express `as simply and clearly as possible, the song texts which Thomas Morley described as “the lively soul of music”; and she soon found that dialogue with those special sounds was the best way to do it. 

She was fortunate also that at that time specialist groups were forming in the UK , many of them seeking singers who might match the particular qualities of their instruments. Very soon Emma was working with Andrew Parrott’;s Taverner Choir and Players, Anthony Rooley’s Consort of Musicke,  Christopher Hogwood’s Academy of Ancient Music, and various gamba consorts, enjoying the music of composers from Tromboncino to Marenzio, Wert and Monteverdi, and from  Byrd to  Dowland, Purcell, Handel, Bach and Mozart.  Much of this activity was given tremendous support from record companies such as Oiseau-Lyre and EMI, and radio airing by the BBC (London) and  Westdeutsche Rundfunk (Köln). From 1980 onwards other ensembles collaborated with her, especially London Baroque in UK, and many other groups such as Freiburger Barock Orchester, L”Orfeo of Linz and Concerto Copenhagen.

Emma has had joyful partnerships with Anthony Rooley and Jakob Lindberg, lutes, Lars Ulrik Mortensen , harpsichord, Marcia Hadjimarkos, fortepiano, James Lisney, piano, and the viol consort Fretwork.

With the Consort of Musicke she spent nearly twenty years in thorough exploration of madrigals, both English and Italian, recording most of Monteverdi’s books, but also enjoying Wert, Marenzzio, Luzzaschi, Ingegneri , Schütz (in Italian) and Gesualdo. In 1993 the Consort staged Monteverdi’s madrigals in Mantova’s Palazzzo Té, in the film “The Banquet of the Senses”. More recently Emma took part in some more staged productions; of Purcell’s “Fairy Queen” in Tokyo, “Musica Fugit” in Utrecht and “Cupid and Death” In Cologne.

These days she still performs occasionally, mostly preferring to share the stage with younger colleagues, who now represent the future; but otherwise she loves to coach young performers, sharing with them things that have helped her to “embody” the songs she admires so dearly.  

When in 2019 Emma was presented with “Gramophone” Magazine’s Lifetime Achievement Award, one of Britain’s most eminent experts contributed this comment:

Not many singers are revolutionaries; not many can be said to have radically changed the sound of music in our time. But that is the lifetime achievement of Emma Kirkby: through her totally distinctive voice, focused artistry and supremely intelligent music-making she has transformed our experience of a repertory of great music. She has been one of the most powerful forces in the early music revival across nearly 50 years, and thus a key part of one of the most important and influential movements in today’s musical world.  (Sir Nicholas Kenyon, ex- Director, Barbican Centre for the Arts and BBC Promenade Concerts , author, musicologist)