Dame Emma Kirkby
"Emma Kirkby's singing is more beautiful than ever."
BBC Music Magazine
"Kirkby’s ability to shade her notes and evoke emotions without undue recourse to vibrato is still almost unrivalled."
International Record Review
With a career spanning nearly 40 years, Dame Emma Kirkby is still at the forefront of early Music performance.
Recognised worldwide for her elegant and intelligent musicianship Dame Emma presents several new recital programmes this year including Songs of Joy, Songs of Mourning with lutenist Anthony Rooley and Music by Twilight and Orpheus in England with lutenist Jakob Lindberg, as well as a programme devised by Susanne Ryden exploring the patronage of Queen Christina of Sweden entitled The Queen’s Music. A supporting CD of The Queen’s Music was released in October 2010 on BIS records.
In 2019, Emma celebrated her 70th birthday with a concert at Wigmore Hall.
This biography is for information only and should not be reproduced.
The Golden Age Revived
Kings Place, London (January 2016)
[Kirkby] still brings a special magic to this music...her artistry was as winning and subtle as ever.
Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph
‘The Seasons’ – John Christopher Smith
Christophorus CHR 77382 (April 2014)
Emma Kirkby radiates joy, gliding easily in and out of lines entwined with solo instruments.
Berta Joncus, BBC Music Magazine
‘Haydn à l’anglaise – Songs by Haydn (ed. Shield)’, Café Mozart,
Nimbus NI6174 (Released January 2012)
Emma Kirkby sounds wonderful in her songs and duets…with subtle shaping of the melodies, perfect control of dynamics and tempo, incisively intelligent phrasing and (a rare thing) exquisite flourishes of Classical period ornamentation, all completely at the service of expression...this is a pleasant...recital...Aspiring singers should also listen to it for Kirkby’s...demonstration of period-style performance and ornamentation.
Christopher Price, International Record Review
Sparkling Soprano: Emma Kirkby fizzes in Haydn’s English songs
Geoff Brown, BBC Music Magazine
‘Montéclair – Cantates à voix seule’, London Baroque
BIS-CD-1865 (Released August 2011)
Kirkby’s vocal purity, dexterity and almost unrivalled skill in executing fully articulated Baroque trills equip her particularly well for this repertory...Kirkby’s ability to shade her notes and evoke emotions without undue recourse to vibrato is still almost unrivalled. Equally impressive are her facility and creativity with ornamentation...Kirkby’s singing is marked by her usual high intelligence and impeccable taste
Andrew O'Connor, International Record Review
Emma Kirkby has thrilled us for years with her sparkling Italianate virtuosity. She’s no less outstanding in the subtleties of French singing, decorating lines with nuanced trills, turns and leaning dissonances, while sustaining an irresistible sense of purpose and forward direction. Her brief liner biography explains that she initially sang ‘for pleasure – and still does’, and the sense of sheer enjoyment in this music-making is palpable
George Pratt, BBC Music Magazine
Kirkby embellishes every note with a grace , lightness and sparkle which other sopranos in careers half as long have already lost. Her taste serves expression. Baroque swirls, shakes, roulades and turns float as weightlessly as cherubs on a church ceiling. Her silence surrounding Lucretia’s death are as eloquent as her harrowing sighs. She engages with the instruments...Kirkby is still peerless in a repertoire she herself is constantly expanding
Rick Jones, Classic FM
‘Salzburg Barock - Music at the Court of Prince Archbishops’, Bell’Arte Salzburg/Siedel
CD Berlin Classics 0300120BC (Released June 2011)
[Emma Kirkby's] superb instrument, bright, highly flexible and subtly shaded, and she deploys it with supreme intelligence. Moreover, she can...dispatch with ease the flamboyantly florid Gaudete et Exultate by Abrahim Megerle...and the punishing passagework of the Ninnberg Abbey Ach kommet von Himmel. She also shines in Hofer’s wonderful miniature Nisi Dominus for soprano and two violins. The elder Biber’s motet O Dulcer Jesu, an athletic and emotionally wide-ranging dialogue for soprano and solo violin in scordatura tuning...is the crowning jewel of the programme both for its writing and for Kirkby’s and Siedel’s electrifying performance...I cannot recall the last time I enjoyed a Baroque music recital disc as much as this one
Christopher Price, International Record Review (IRR Outstanding)
‘Orpheus in England: songs and lute solos’ - Dowland, Purcell
a touch of winter frost', 'Kirkby conveys both intellectual appreciation and a deep emotional connection with their words', 'the voice may be less beautiful than it was, but her singing is more beautiful than ever'
Anna Picard, BBC Music magazine
The Queen’s Music: CD recording
Released October 2010
Emma Kirkby, the Swedish soprano Susanne Rydén and the English baritone Peter Harvey, all specialists in the historically informed performance of Baroque music, have the light, brilliant, flexible voices necessary to do these lovely works full justice. Kirkby is warmer than the more crystalline-sounding and considerably younger Rydén, but she is no less agile and thus the two sopranos are a perfect match in the eight sometimes almost declamatory, sometimes highly florid works they sing together
Christopher Price, International Record Review February 2011
The vocal colours of Kirkby and her fellow soprano Susanne Rydén compliment each other beautifully, while Peter Harvey's resonant baritone and the countertenor Mikael Bellini add other shades. ****
Stephen Pettitt, The Sunday Times
Many of the settings exploit the sensual intertwining of two soprano coices over a basso continuo...Emma Kirkby, dewy-voiced as ever, and Swedish soprano Susanne Rydén make exquisite partners, ever-sensitive to the music's subtle nuances and graceful ornamentation. ****
Kate Bolton, BBC Music Magazine
If the [Queen's] musicians could play and sing with as much charm as the performers on this recording, then one can understand the desire of the Queen completely. Impeccable vocal technique, smooth text articulation and a high expression characterize the vocal works, the experience of the very emotionally recited instrumental playing sets an excellent addition. Here, Emma Kirkby (after all, highly respected now as the "Grand Dame" of the early music scene) and her singing partners deliver sensitivity, drama and an incredible variety of nuances in the expression - that is unique in that light, these works have beautiful jewels on.
Éva Pintér www.klassik-heute.de/
Emma Kirkby recital programmes
|Songs of Joy – Songs of Mourning||
English Lute-songs by Dowland and Coperario (with Anthony Rooley, lute).
Songs of Joy, Songs of Mourning: English Lute-songs from the Jacobean Era Beautifully expressing the sense that sad music was prized above trivial ‘merry ditties,’ the two halves of this programme provide a complete contrast. The first features John Dowland, belying his melancholy image (indeed, he was described by one contemporary as ‘living a life of lawful merriment’), while the second consists of Coprario’s magnificent song cycle, to words by Campion, upon the untimely death at 18 years of Prince Henry, eldest son of King James the First.
|Orpheus and Corinna||
The Classical Tradition in Song in England in the 17th Century (with Anthony Rooley, lute).
English Lute-songs from the Jacobean Era Beautifully expressing the sense that sad music was prized above trivial ‘merry ditties,’ the two halves of this programme provide a complete contrast. The first features John Dowland, belying his melancholy image (indeed, he was described by one contemporary as ‘living a life of lawful merriment’), while the second consists of Coprario’s magnificent song cycle, to words by Campion, upon the untimely death at 18 years of Prince Henry, eldest son of King James the First.
|Honey from the Hive||
John Dowland and Elizabethan Patronage (with Anthony Rooley, lute).
If the court of Elizabeth I could be compared to a bee-hive, John Dowland was one of its workers, tirelessly bringing in news from the Continent which he constantly visited, and as tirelessly producing the spiritual sustenance vital for the court's existence. It is this honey that Emma Kirkby and Anthony Rooley have gathered in an imaginative recital that focuses on Dowland's relationship to his various patrons – among them Elizabeth I and the Earl of Essex.
|Slide soft you silver floods||
Songs and lute solos from 17th century England (with Jakob Lindberg, lute).
This recital draws on the riches of English song; from the well-known and loved works of Dowland, Campion and Morley, via the sparkling songs of Stuart court masques and Cavalier gatherings, to more private lyrics set during the Interregnum. This seemed to be the lost generation of musicians, but their work emerges full of vitality and through the dark mid-century years the flame was kept alive - to be taken up by Purcell and his colleagues after the Restoration. Interspersed with the songs are lute solos by Dowland, Bacheler, Johnson and the enigmatic Cuthbert Hely.
|Music at Twilight||
Songs and solos from early 17th century Europe (with Jakob Lindberg, lute).
This programme consists of pieces that could have been played on this instrument, a product of a city in the centre of Europe, on one of the main routes to Italy, during decades that marked the twilight of the Renaissance, era of the lute’s pre-eminence, and the dawn of the Baroque period, during which the lute very slowly receded into the shadows.
|Orpheus in England||
(with Jakob Lindberg, lute).
Music by John Dowland and Henry Purcell