John Blow: Venus and AdonisSelect a Review

With Sophie Daneman, Roderick Williams, Elin Manahan Thomas and Theatre of the Ayre, directed by Elizabeth Kenny.
Wigmore Hall Live 0043. Released May 2011.
Sophie Daneman and Roderick Williams are the lovers, while Elin Manahan Thomas leads the little Cupids (the girls of Salisbury Cathedral choir) in their ABC. Decoration is free and elegant, the accompanying programme of dances and songs (including Lambert’s Vos mépris and De Visée’s Chaconne) deliciously seductive.

Independent on Sunday, 6 March 2011.

Sophie Daneman delivers the recitative expressively, and rises magnificently to the challenge of Venus’s despair. Adonis, less wimpish than Purcell’s Aeneas, is sung with forthright, virile tone by Roderick Williams … Under Elizabeth Kenny’s direction, the ensemble of strings and recorders shapes the dances gracefully.

Classic fm Magazine, May 2011.

Sophie Daneman is a languid Venus and Roderick Williams is an ardent Adonis. Elin Manahan Thomas is an ideally light Cupid…Jason Darnell’s virile Huntsman is a bit of a shock when he hurls out plenty of top Bs during a short passage but his contributions possess plenty of characterful verve … Not just a nice document of a good concert but a fine recording in its own right.

Gramophone, May 2011.

Refined, sparkling and intelligent… the Theatre of the Ayre turns in a highly impressive performance, by turns subtle and powerful, rhythmically slick and very well balanced.

International Record Review, April 2011.

The true stars here are the band, led by Elizabeth Kenny, which extemporises and pushes tempos to giddy extremes.

BBC Music Magazine, May 2011.

The nightingale and the butterflySelect a Review

French Baroque music with Pamela Thorby, recorders,
(Linn records CKD 34)1 released June 2010
There’s a lot of dash and sparkle in the faster numbers; Louis Caix d’Hervelois’s minature Papillon floats as it should, and there’s a delightful Gigue at the close of Charles Dieupart’s F minor suite. And so good to have Robert de Visée’s Suite in D minor for theorbo played with such consummate skill by Elizabeth Kenny – 12 minutes of glorious, velvety darkness, and completely new to me. This is a superb issue, stunningly produced and recorded.

The Artsdesk.com Dec 2010

Thorby delightfully evokes the birds and butterflies of this pastoral idyll, and capers through the dance movements with fleet fingerwork. She is superbly partnered by Elizabeth Kenny, who plays archlute, theorbo and Baroque guitar, valiantly coping with the role more commonly realised by the harpsichord. Kenny also takes centre stage for solo works by Robert de Visée, whose sublimely melancholy music would soothe the Sun King to sleep at night.
A disc full of delights and surprises.

BBC Music Magazine Oct 2010

This is very much a duo recital. Kenny provides delightful theorbo solos by the 17th-century virtuoso Robert de Visée as well as enchanting accompaniments to Thorby’s recorder playing. There is a wonderfully improvised feel about the Prélude to the D minor Suite, delightfully ornamented with understated cadences. She elucidates Visée’s hierarchies within the musical textures of the Courante and uses silence artfully in the Sarabande. In the Passacaille she makes the theorbo sound like a Spanish guitar (an instrument she takes up to accompany Couperin’s Le rossignol-en-amour). Best of all are her delicate, understated phrase-endings, which are a hallmark of the French style. When accompanying, she is nimble in the quick movements and elegantly conversational in the slower ones.
…Thorby is at her best in Caix d’Hervelois’s restless Papillon and the sinuous La lionnoise, and in Couperin’s masterful Le rossignol vainqueur.

Gramophone October 2010

Elizabeth Kenny’s sensitive plucked accompaniment balances the recorder very well. In between the recorder pieces she plays two on theorbo by the French court composer Robert de Visée.

Early Music Review Aug 10

Lutenist Elizabeth Kenny introduces a deeper melancholy in her twilit performance of De Visée’s Passacaille.

Independent on Sunday July 2010

The performances strike exactly the right note: a great deal of scholarly thought has gone into the selection of appropriate instruments alone, as can be seen from the list which I have appended, but you would never guess that from the absolute spontaneity of the playing.

MusicWeb International July 2010

Purcell: Dido and AeneasSelect a Review

Directed Kenny/Devine, with Sarah Connolly et al. Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.
Chandos Records Chaconne CHAN0757 recorded June 2008, released Jan 2009
Here is England’s first great opera presented with a truly cohesive sense of theatrical purpose … this is a version of the opera with a few judicious extra movements, bringing additional scope to the drama as well as speculative musicological interest … [under the] outstandingly deft co-direction of Elizabeth Kenny and Steve Devine.

Gramophone, February 2009 – Editor’s Choice.

… a Dido of unremitting delight … Elizabeth Kenny, the lutenist who co-directs this performance, points to recent scholarship suggesting the piece may have been designed for professional performance … [The OAE’s] production, of Dido – so refreshed, sensitive and thoughtful, proved the starting point for this recording, shaped by Connolly and its two musical directors, Elizabeth Kenny and Steven Devine. Included are extra dances and ritornellos driven by Kenny’s lutes and guitars … They’re beautifully handled and reinforce the idea of Dido as a “masque” – an entertainment centred on the physicality of dance …The Choir of the Age of Enlightenment, too, offers perfection spiced with imagination… there’s even room for some delicate ornaments … As the drama unfolds, singers and orchestra are always emotionally united.

Classic fm Disc of the Month, February 2009.

There could be no better start to the Baroque year of 2009, bringing together the anniversaries of Purcell’s birth and Handel’s death, than this superb version of Purcell’s unmatched one-hour opera. This features a full-voiced, richly inflected Dido from Sarah Connolly … and a cast of fine operatic voices. But the playing is crisp, light and sharp-edged and no conductor is needed when two expert continuo players lead the band so skilfully.

The Observer, January 2009.

… a fascinating exploration of intimacy and artifice, rhetoric and silence.

The Independent on Sunday, October 2007

There are many recordings of Dido and Aeneas, and I am convinced that this one must rank among the finest. Sarah Connolly … brings to the role of Dido a regal gravity that is indispensable for a convincing portrayal… The success or failure of a performance of Dido can depend on the celebrated lament. Here Sarah Connolly takes a very slow tempo, but the dramatic tension and musical direction are never in jeopardy. It is an exquisitely eloquent reading.

American Record Guide

The care and love that has gone into this recording shines out from the very first notes.… All the cast, made of some of the finest British early music talent of our time, deliver the text brilliantly – not a word misses its mark, This is a definitive Dido and Aeneas, deserving of the highest praise.

Early Music Today – August/September 2009

Played with poise and clarity that we have come to expect of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, this is a beautiful performance. Opera Now
From the outset, Connolly exudes imposing presence, pathos and unassailable dignity; her Act III Lament consummates a deeply-felt empathy with the role… Purcell year will doubtless bring a crop of highly cherishable performances; Connolly’s Dido already sets the bar decidedly high.

BBC Music Magazine ‘Choice’

Purcell: The Food of LoveSelect a Review

With Paul Agnew, tenor; Anne Marie Lasla, bass viol; Blandine Rannou, harpsichord.
Naive Ambroisie AM185. Released September 2009.
This is a beautifully structured and subtly delivered Purcell anniversary recital.

The Times, November 2009.

Generally the performances are outstanding – and the idea of breaking up the Purcell songs with instrumental solos inspired. The guitar works meanwhile – by Corbetta and de Visée and performed by Elizabeth Kenny – are among the most atmospheric on the disc

BBC Music Magazine, October 2009.

Two of Purcell’s settings of If Music be the Food of Love – words by Henry Heveningham rather than Shakespeare – top and tail this delightful disc focusing on Purcell’s love songs but also embracing instrumental pieces by Francisco Corbetta, Christopher Simpson and Robert de Visée. Paul Agnew’s pure, golden tenor voice and verbal expressiveness are sensitively backed by the period instruments to convey love’s agonies and joys.

The Daily Telegraph, Nov 2009

Flying HorseSelect a Review

Music from the The ML LuteBook
Hyperion Records CDA67776
Elizabeth Kenny believes ML was the Margaret who wrote her name in its margins. Patron or pupil, this 17th-century mystery woman had sophisticated tastes. Kenny’s passagework is exhilaratingly crisp but most startling here is the bold ornamentation and dramatic dynamics.…

The Independent on Sunday, Sept 2009

Exotic colours and delicious dissonances show that restraint is out: excess is in….a fine balance of scholarship, technology and first-rate performance..

BBC Music Magazine November 2009

The listener is able to savour the individual qualites of each work while finding additional pleasure in the numerous correspondences and differences that pervade the collection – all the while marvelling not only at Kenny’s acute sense of local colour, form and texture but also her considerable technical prowess, the latter especially obvious in the profuse ornamentation and extended divisions throughout .

Gramophone Oct 2009.

Kenny’s performances are technically expert… They are invariably sensitive, with special attention paid to the suppleness of phrasing. She never shortchanges the ornamentation, and incorporates rhetorical pauses in the musical textures of the slower works into her sound to great effect. All the material she plays is treated with an identical attention to detail and shaping, regardless of tempo or weight… Top marks all around’

Fanfare, USA, Nov 2009

Dowland Lute SongsSelect a Review

With Mark Padmore, Craig Ogdon.
Recorded 2007. Britten Nocturnal Hyperion Records. (Hyperion CDA67648)
This fascinating release does more than raise the standard of Dowland interpretation yet another notch: it also helps to contextualise the composer in relation to both his own time and ours … Mark Padmore again shows why he is one of today’s finest tenors…Elizabeth Kenny’s lute caresses the vocal line, embellishments, colour changes and rhythmic pointing never retarding the flow.
The little world of each song is sensitively explored and beautifully expressed. Elizabeth Kenny writes in her scholarly booklet notes that ‘over the years many great singers have made Dowland’s voice their own, and this is one of our starting points for this disc’. Padmore and Kenny have used some perhaps less familiar manuscripts to perform a number of these songs and the result is fascinating.

Gramophone, January 2008.

A simply brilliant disc. I can’t praise it enough. A bronze Liz Kenny should be on the empty plinth in Trafalgar square, in my opinion.

Early Music Review, February 2008.

The lyrical tone, immaculate diction and musicianship of Britain’s finest tenor … He makes the strongest possible case for regarding Dowland as the father of English song with his expressive, deeply-felt accounts of some of the best-known numbers … Kenny’s authoritative booklet notes puts the songs into a fascinating historical context.

The Sunday Times CD of the Week, Jan 2008

Since Emma Kirkby’s first recording in the late-1970s, we have known what to expect from Dowland’s lute songs. Some fine discs have followed, but not until Mark Padmore and Elizabeth Kenny’s new release has there been one as radical in its potential impact on our understanding of the music. With tonal purity intact, voice and lute add subtle decoration, rhythmic fluidity, drama and rich poetic sensibility to these songs, using Craig Ogden’s expressive performance of Britten’s ‘Nocturnal’ as their foil. Odd to hail ‘Come again’ as the highlight, but the vivid reading of this ostensibly simple song is a revelation.

The Independent on Sunday, Feb 2008

Songs by Henry and William LawesSelect a Review

With Robin Blaze, Rebecca Outram, Rob Macdonald, Bill Carter, Frances Kelly
Recorded 2006. (Hyperion CDA67589)
This is a valuable anthology, carefully conceived and lovingly executed … Robin Blaze is heard mostly at his considerable best … The true foil to Blaze’s eloquence is Kenny’s sensitive and fluent lute.

Gramophone 2007

The Lawes brothers tend to be thought of mainly as composers of instrumental consort music, but this outstanding disc reveals them in a fascinating new light as highly accomplished songwriters …

The Daily Telegraph

This delicious survey … offers an exquisite image of a little-understood era.

The Independent on Sunday, April 2007

I find it impossible to imagine better exponents of this idiomatic music than Robin Blaze and Elizabeth Kenny. Blaze has many gifts: not only a perfectly-tuned and controlled voice, but one that is intrinsically beautiful, and an unsurpassed vehicle for English words … Kenny backs him up perfectly, providing a great deal more than simply accompaniment: like Blaze, she can paint every note in a different colour, contributing enormously to the story-telling and to the beauty of these performances. The dark tones of her theorbo are a wonderful support to his voice. She also contributes scholarly and fascinating programme notes

Early Music Review 2007

Henry Purcell: Victorious LoveSelect a Review

With Carolyn Sampson, Anne-Marie Lasla, Laurence Cummings
Recorded 2006. Gramophone’s Editor’s Choice for Dec 2007 (BIS-SACD-1536)
Well known favourites such as “Music for a while”, “Fairest Isle” and “I attempt from love’s sickness to fly” are excellently done but several of the relatively obscure songs (“The Fatal Hour”, and “From Silent Shades”) are shown to be equally rewarding and engaging. First-class new recordings of Purcell’s music are much too rare, and this one deserves to be an enormous success.

Gramophone, December 2007 – Editor’s Choice.

Ihr Gesang, von den herausragenden Instrumentalisten Laurence Cummings, Elizabeth Kenny unde Anne-Marie Lasla phantasievoll und sensible begleitet, stosst immer wieder kleine Fenster zum Paradies auf.

Klassik Heute, Jan 2008

Despite the obvious center-stage position [Carolyn Sampson] holds on „Victorious Love“, however, the ensemble supporting her has taken some equally personal and noteworthy decisions. It is … Elizabeth Kenny, who signs responsible for the lute and theorbo (a special, long-necked version of the former) parts, rather than Sampson who expounds and explains the alterations or additions in instrumentation or arrangement in the liner notes of the booklet … As a result, the disc has turned out eclectic and colourful, with changing settings for each piece.

Tobias Fischer www.tokafi.com/newsitems

Move now with measured soundSelect a Review

With Robin Blaze, David Milller, Mark Levy, Joanna Levine
Recorded 2001. Music by Thomas Campion (Hyperion CDA67268)
Move Now with Measured sound-Campion with Robin Blaze
A magical rendering of “Move now with measured sound”…touches deeper emotions as do the exquisitely dreamy “The Cypress curtain of the night” and the tenderly affectionate laments for Prince Henry. Other highlights include the interplay of Blaze’s intoxicatingly moving phrases and the pretty lutenistic embellishments of “Blame not my cheeks”…. Atmospheric instrumental solos and an impressively focussed recording sound complete this superb recital.

BBC Music Magazine, Feb 2002

Robin Blaze ..has every..weapon in his armoury (and)….is again partnered by Elizabeth Kenny, most subtle and imaginative of lute accompanists; her knowledge of the poetry is lightly worn, but informs every note of her playing-she seems to think words and music on a dual track, and her ornamentation is magically judged-always for strengthening the rhetoric, never for display. Her sleeve note is without reservation the best I’ve ever read…. The disc…is an absolute joy to listen to.

Lute News, Spring 2002

English Lute songsSelect a Review

With Robin Blaze
Recorded 1999. CDA67126
Opening with Johnson’s Tempest songs, Blaze and his fine accompanist Elizabeth Kenny, mellifluously shift from the melancholic Dowland to the less ubiquitous songs of William Lawes as they move inexorably towards the great Orpheus, Henry Purcell…around some exquisite solo lute numbers Blaze appears as ever the natural heir to James Bowman…. Another fine achievement from two of Britain’s brightest and best.

Gramophone, March 2000

When I first heard this I repeated it five times over and was still entranced. Throughout the recital Elizabeth Kenny complements the voice with taste and sympathy.

Gramophone Early Music, Spring 2000.

Elizabeth Kenny is a beguiling accomplice who turns her ear-relieving spots to eminently musical advantage.

Classic CD, March 2000