Wednesday, February 4, 2015
No two musicians have more vividly brought to life the music of Claudio Monteverdi for me, than conductor Raymond Leppard (whose readings of the “Madrigals” are, to me, definitive) and singer Emma Kirkby (whose renditions bring out the essential elegant charm and edged lines of that Italian master). It’s been my privilege to meet and interview both Leppard and Kirkby! Her more than 100 recordings demonstrate a lively range of expression that encompasses not just Renaissance and Baroque music but songs by the American composer, Amy Beach. I see from a new issue of BBC Music that a 12-disc set of essential performances by Kirkby is on the way to a March release. Watch for that! Bless her heart, Kirkby prefers “live” concerts, usually with a lutenist (or two) as a backup... which is how I met her a few years ago in Kansas City. She was as warm and generous with her time and conversation with me as she was in her concert recital. And as she spoke about her study and performances of Monteverdi and other masters Henry Purcell and John Dowland, she revealed a solid awareness of the musical contexts of the works. High among the roster of my favorite meetings and interviews with great singers, which has included Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Emmy Ameling, and Jan de Gaetani, is Emma Kirkby. Worthy of note is her reception of the Order of the British Empire in November 2000.