Reviews

Weiss in Nostalgia

*****
‘Alex McCartney practically lives the music by Silvius Leopold Weiss. He plays it as if he’d never done anything else or had never considered any other music. Like breathing in and out, which doesn’t need to be taught either. In the booklet he himself describes how his relationship with Silvius Leopold Weiss presents itself : „Playing Weiss, for me, often has the effect of feeling like the more effort I put in, the more I get out of it. To put it another way: the juice is credibly worth the squeeze.“ „The juice is credibly worth the squeeze,“ – well put!
We will surely hear more of Alex McCartney – The recordings we heard are promising indeed! His playing sounds familiar, in almost every aspect. Lutenists are seldom drawn to virtuosic excess – or shall we say: their virtuosity happens on a different level than, for example that of sportive, juvenile guitarists – and when Alex McCartney is playing, he emanates an elegance through which he could never ever – not even in moments of highest musical ecstasy – lose his contenance. Bravo!’ Guitarre & Laute

‘The first suite in F major consists of no less than eleven pieces, among which shine several gems, well known to amateurs, like the gigue or even more so, the famous courante, played with lively pulsation and using delightful colour and timbre changes, notably on the reprises, which makes for an undeniable punch. In many previous recordings, the technical difficulties tend to give the pulsation less assurance than it needs. This is remedied here by erasing the difficulties and letting the music speak.’ Société Française de Luth

‘…this fine recording by Alex McCartney in a series which continues to impress.’ Lark Reviews

‘McCartney consistently plays with grace and delicacy, making this a joy to listen to.’ Classical Notes

Rondeau Mélancolique

‘McCartney has a solo spot next, with a Suite for the theorbo by Robert de Visée (c.1655-1732/33). This has wonderful melodic lines, which McCartney articulates over the harmonies with great precision, making this a particular highlight of the disc.’ Classical Notes

Fantasia Incantata (Libro Primo)

‘…McCartney virtually shreds his accompaniments with fervent plucking and percussive strumming.
The album’s highlights include the wide-ranging forms, embracing both church and chamber music, of G. A. Pandolfi Mealli’s sonata “La Cesta,” from 1660, on which Stoffer and McCartney span extremes of ethereal calm and profane excitement.’ Richard Brody, The New Yorker,

‘This impressive recording by Ensemble Libro Primo (Sabine Stoffer & Alex McCartney) features 17th-century music for violin and theorbo written in the Stylus Phantasticus[.] … [The] sense of improvisatory performance infuses these performances with drama and excitement. One example is the solo violin Passagio Rotto by N. Matteis. Matteis was praised by Roger North for his “eloquent, expressive style“: words that accurately describe Sabine Stoffer’s own delightful playing.
Also included are two groups of theorbo pieces by Kapsberger, played with exquisite delicacy by Alex McCartney. Notable amongst these harmonically innovative pieces are the Gagliarda from the 1620 Terzo quarto d’intavolatura di chitarrone, and the impressive Passacaglia from Kapsberger’s 1640 Libro quarto. Although it was recorded in Glasgow Cathedral, the acoustic sounds intimate and suits the music well.’ Andrew Benson-Wilson, Early Music Reviews +

With La Nuova Musica:

‘‘Amarti sì vorrei’ (Yes, I want to love you) was similarly enhanced by Alex McCartney’s expressive theorbo.’ Claire Seymour, Opera Today

Toccata:Touched

‘…McCartney interprets with elegance and sensitivity. [He] adapts well to the varying characters of the pieces. The quality of the sound must be atributed to McCartney’s excellent playing and recording skills.’ Fiona Thistle, LSA

‘Kapsberger has found a worthy and accomplished ambassador in Glasgow-based lutenist and luthier Alex McCartney… McCartney establishes his technical credentials with an impressive range of intricate flourishes… Equally noteworthy is the vivid sound capture achieved in Glasgow Cathedral […] total clarity is achieved and maintained… The prevailing mood is one of concise and upbeat exploration of musical ideas.’ Paul Fowles, UK Lute News

‘A sublime recital of works by G G Kapsberger (c1580 – 1651). Although complex music this is a very relaxing listening experience as Alex McCartney breathes life into this ancient and mostly forgotten music. A lovely production.’ Lark Reviews

‘This recording is clearly something of a labour of love… Alex McCartney plays with musical conviction, taking even the tiniest little musical morsel seriously.’ Andrew Benson-Wilson, Early Music Reviews

‘With the rich, deep tones of the theorbo, and some rippling and cascading runs, deftly articulated here by McCartney, this is a delightful programme. Another enjoyable disc – notably recorded and produced by McCartney himself on his on micro record label.’ Nick Boston, Classical Notes

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With the Dunedin Consort:
‘Historically Informed Performance Practice, the movement in which John Butt and the Dunedin Consort are world leaders, always lends a rough energy and variegated palette of sounds to rarely heard music, both of which were gloriously heightened in the many dance numbers featuring Alex McCartney’s excellent theorbo playing.’
Gergor Forbes, Cusp Magazine

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‘A consumate lutenist…’
Sean Rafferty, BBC Radio 3 InTune

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Elizabeth’s Lutes

‘Following the success of his first solo album, Mesangeau’s Experiments, Alex McCartney has released a second and just as lovely album… Alex’s use of dynamics to delineate the form [pavane] is very clever and effective; others wishing to expand their dynamic palettes are urged to take notes. His awareness of dissonance (as understood in the 16th Century) is perceptive and the subtle articulations used to highlight these clashes are a delight…The recording quality is excellent and has that ever-sought after quality – naturalness… This is a worthy contribution from one of the new generation of lutenists.’
K.R.Bozhinov, LSA (Lute Society of America)

‘Many of these pieces have considerable difficulties which McCartney does not shirk. His playing is precise, thoughtful and always in control. One particular strength is the care with which he articulates fast divisions, which can sound a little scrappy in other hands….[McCartney’s] complex flourishes and divisions are sensitively and cleanly played.’
John Reeve, The Lute (UK Lute Society)

‘This is a highly enjoyable disc, warmly recorded and expertly performed throughout.’
Nick Boston, Classical Notes

‘A meditative disc that reflects
English melancholy… sublime and perfect.’
SFL

‘[A]n enchanting collection of fine performances of lute repertoire from a number of composers from the time of the court of Elizabeth I. Very enjoyable.’
Lark Reviews

‘According to the programme notes, these pieces are notoriously tricky to play, although I wouldn’t have noticed that from Alex McCartney’s assured performance here. … Alex McCartney’s playing is sensitive and musical, and the recording picks up the sound of the lute very well.’
Andrew Benson-Wilson, Early Music Review

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With Iestyn Davies, Jonathan Cohen and Jonathan Manson:

‘McCartney was supremely sensitive to the elegant gravity of the idiom — the slow courante in the French style epitomised the prioritisation of atmosphere over virtuosity — and explored interesting low registers and unexpected metrical accents with variety of tone and diversity of strums.’ Claire Seymour, Opera Today

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Mésangeau’s Experiments

“I have greatly enjoyed Alex McCartney’s playing of these suites, with his lightness of touch in the faster movements, and sustained grace in the Sarabandes and Chaconne.”
Margaret Rees, The Consort

“McCartney’s interpretation of this reflective music is stylish and sublime.”
Kate Benessa, LSA

“… the CD is a real pleasure to listen to and Alex McCartney shows he is a very good lutenist which one has a desire to hear more from.” Jean-Luc Bresson, SFL (Translated from the French)

“This is sublime music, played with such feeling by Alex McCartney, a busy soloist and accompanist, who also directs the ensemble, Poeticall Musicke, and makes lutes. We are fortunate to be able to listen to this re-discovered music performed with such care.”
Stephen Page, Lark Reviews

“[McCartney’s] phrasing (an essential part of this ‘tricky’ French lute style) is admirably musical and the playing fluent and easily flowing.”
Martyn Hodgson, Lute News

“The playing is sensitive and musical…”
Andrew Benson-Wilson Early Music Review

“Using three suites Alex McCartney gives us a good impression of the refined art of the master.” Pizzicato (Translated from the German)

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With the Early Opera Company and the Royal Opera House at the Roundhouse:

“The continuo playing was sinewy and sensuous, ornaments rarely exaggerated… Lutes and harp were fiery yet delicate. Monteverdi’s genius worked its magic.”

The Observer

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With the Academy of Ancient Music in the Barbican:

“The wonderfully expressive theorbo playing of William Carter and Alex McCartney was punctuated by instrumental accompaniments…”

Opera Today

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With La Nuova Musica at St John Smith’s Square:

“The evening opens with ‘Three Dances’ by William Lawes, skilfully performed on lute/theorbo by David Miller and Alex McCartney in a demonstration of both great delicacy and musical understanding between the two players.”

Exeunt Magazine

With the English Concert at the Wigmore Hall:

“[…]the bright timbre of Alex McCartney’s baroque guitar enlivened the outer movements of ‘L’Estate’.”

Opera Today

With The Wordsworth Singers:

“A special feature of this concert was the two sets of solos, played by lutenist Alex McCartney, sandwiched between the main groups of vocal items. [The pieces] were all performed with great delicacy and precision and formed a delightful contrast to the more full-bodied sound of the 30-strong choir.”

Mike Town

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