All products and recordings are chosen independently by our editorial team. This review contains affiliate links and we may receive a commission for purchases made. Please read our affiliates FAQ page to find out more.

Secret Pages (Stefano Maiorana)

Stefano Maiorana (theorbo) (Arcana)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Secret Pages
Theorbo pieces by JH Kapsberger and Claudio Ambrosini
Stefano Maiorana (theorbo)
Arcana A541   59:17 mins


This album creates an atmospheric soundscape evoking – with the faintest of brushstrokes – the hallucinatory beauty of Venice. The musical sequence interleaves 20 works by two composers with profound connections to La Serenissima: Johann Hieronymus Kapsberger (c1580-1651), who spent his formative years in the ‘serene republic’, and the Venetian Claudio Ambrosini (b1948).

Exploiting the soft resonance of the theorbo, Kapsberger’s pieces are at once intimate and sonorous: improvisatory in spirit, they roam and ruminate and dance by turns. Each one flows like liquid into Ambrosini’s experimental soundworld, the starting point for which was imagining the ‘secret notebooks’ of Kapsberger – fictional pages of daringly exploratory music. From those imagined sketches, Ambrosini takes Baroque themes and motifs, arabesques and embellishments and, mingling them with the elemental sounds of Venice, fragments and reworks them as sonic memories. The musical stream of consciousness is articulated by ambient recordings that fleetingly capture the essence of La Serenissima: the lapping and crashing of waves, chiming bells and cawing gulls, moored ships and bobbing gondolas.

Stefano Maiorana plays with remarkable poise and control yet at the same time conveys the music’s extempore quality. He draws a kaleidoscope of colours, textures and percussive effects, producing a sound rich and sumptuous as Venetian velvet. The recording does full justice to his artistry and to the fine theorbo by Francisco Hervas. In all, a sensual montage of sounds and memories – all saturated with Venice.


Kate Bolton-Porciatti