Review: Italian Theorbo Music by James Akers

Italian Theorbo Music by James Akers

Italian Theorbo Music Transcribed For Classical Guitar by James Akers
2019 Guitar & Music Institute

Buy the Book on Amazon: Italian Theorbo Music by Akers

Thanks to the Guitar and Music Institute for sending me this book of theorbo music which I was particularly interested in. Below I list some pros and cons but really, the value of having access to some of this music outweighs it all. For those of you not familiar with the theorbo check out these posts: Theorbo Development in the 17th Century or this performance of Lorenzo Micheli playing Kapsperger on theorbo.

The Good Stuff

  • Great repertoire. There is a wealth of excellent theorbo music out there so it’s good to see people diving into it. The composers and the pieces are all of particular interest to me.
  • Nice to have sheet music, tab, audio narration, notes, and videos all combined into a publication, although a single website link would have sufficed for the media instead of numerous pages dedicated to it (see more on that below). But still cool to have all there and maybe people would have their phone nearby to as they practice to listen to things on the spot.
  • The left hand fingering is sparse (I like this aspect) but there when needed. Some students might want more fingering.
  • The left hand fingering seems pretty good to me. This music can be difficult to arrange on the 6-string guitar but he’s done a decent job. I might re-finger some of it but that is just a personal preference. He fingers the music for harmonic resonance and it sounds good on the guitar. He finds a nice line between open string shifts and closed fingering for some of the counterpoint.

Room for Improvement

  • The actual print quality of the music is lower than expected and small. The text all looks fine but the music itself is a bit low contrast (like when you print out a screen shot). Don’t let this concern you much, it’s definitely useable so not a dealbreaker.
  • Some two page pieces require a page turn (such as Mustazzin Corrente), they should have added a blank page to avoid this.
  • A full page is dedicated to the QR code and YouTube link for every single piece. That’s 21 sides of paper. I like the QR codes but maybe they could just be in the corner or a list.
  • I randomly opened the book to Mustazzin Corrente and the fingering in the sheet music doesn’t match the tablature in the first bar (4th finger on E but the tablature shows an open string). I didn’t actually find any more slips though so the overall editing seems good.
  • The videos are functional but the quality of the audio could be better, although nicely rhythmic (see video below). In terms of the performances I heard him play Baroque guitar and lute on his Youtube which sounded good to me so it would make sense that lute is more his thing.

Conclusion

Great repertoire and an interesting project eclipse any misgivings I have about the book. Theorbo music holds an important place in music history and contains a wealth of pieces ready to be adapted to the guitar. A second edition could easily improve this book with only a few small adjustments.

Publisher’s Promotional Text

Italian Theorbo Music is a book of transcribed Theorbo works for classical guitar. The transcriptions were undertaken by renown guitarists, lute and early instrument specialist James Akers. This book contains works from three of the world’s great stringed instrument composers; Kapsberger, Piccinini and Castaldi.

Twenty one musical works are presented with selected accompaniments and figured bass also offered specifically from the music of Giovanni Girolamo Kapsperger.
This book is a must for anyone who is either interest in the amazing Theorbo instrument and it’s music of those who are looking to learn more about the composers and their work. As well as this, Italian Theorbo Music also includes:

All music provided in music notation & TAB
Figured bass, accompaniments & guitar realisations examples
Author video play through of selected works via QR code
Narration of selected pieces & composers biog. via QR code
Narration & notes about the history of the Theorbo
Free additional works available to download

 

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