Sunday, January 13, 2013

“Toccata Arpeggiata”

A happy Sunday, friends. It’s been a bit slow here on Robert Frost’s Banjo so far in 2013, & especially last week, but I’m hoping to get up to a more full posting schedule this coming week.

I have a wonderful piece of music for your enjoyment today: David Tayler’s rendition of Kapsberger’s “Toccata Arpeggiata,” played on the instrument for which it was written, the theorbo. Yes, the instrument really is that big! I had the great pleasure of seeing the Oregon Renaissance Band performing at Portland Community Music Center on New Year’s weekend, & one of the program highlights was hearing (& seeing) “Toccata Arpeggiata” performed as a solo piece by lutenist Hideki Yamaya on theorbo.

David Tayler is, as his website bio states, a member of Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, the Arcadian Academy, the Festspiel Orchester Gttingen & Parnassus Avenue. In addition to appearing with a number of other ensembles, he is also co-director of Voices of Music along with Hanneke van Proosdij, & Tayler has made a number of high definition videos featuring that ensemble's work, which are uploaded to the Early Music HD channel on YouTube.  I recommend this channel to anyone who is interested in Baroque & Renaissance music, & really to anyone who just loves good music. The performances & the videos of them are all first rate.

“Toccata Arpegiatta” is perhaps the most standard piece for the theorbo. It was composed by Johannes Hieronymous Kapsberger, who lived from around 1580 to 1651.  Although his family was certainly German, he probably was born in Venice, where his father, a colonel in the Imperial Army of Austria, had settled. Kapsberger himself lived in Italy, moving from Venice to Rome in the early 17th century, & was both a virtuoso performer & a prolific composer, known particularly for his lute & theorbo pieces. 

David Tayler gives a beautiful reading of the piece. Enjoy!

Image links to its source on Wiki CommonsFirst measures of the tablature of the first tocatta of the libro primo d'intavolatura di chitarone ("first book of chitarone tablature") by Johannes Hieronymus Kapsberger published in Venezia 1604
Public domain


  1. What a beautiful instrument with such a lovely sound. I really enjoyed reading about the composer.

    1. So glad you enjoyed it, Joyce! Thanks so much.


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