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Elizabeth Kenny


Elizabeth Kenny is one of Europe’s leading lute players. Her playing has been described as “incandescent” (Music and Vision), “radical” (The Independent on Sunday) and “indecently beautiful” (Toronto Post).

She has an extensive discography of collaborations with chamber ensembles across Europe and the USA, including viol consort Phantasm, and with singers such as Ian Bostridge, Mark Padmore, Robin Blaze and Nicholas Mulroy. In 2017 Shakespeaare Songs with Ian Bostridge and co-collaborators won the Grammy best solo vocal recital, and the same year Phantasm and Kenny won the Gramophone Early Music award for their recording of Dowland’s Lachrime. She has devised several critically acclaimed recordings of solo music from the ML Lute Book, and songs by Lawes, Purcell and Dowland. In 2011 she was one of three shortlisted nominees for the Royal Philharmonic Society Awards in the best instrumentalist category.

In 2007 Kenny founded Theatre of the Ayre, whose various touring projects have sealed a reputation for an innovative and improvisatory approach to seventeenth-century music.

In twenty five years of touring Kenny has played with many of the world’s best period instrument groups, including extended spells with Les Arts Florissants and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. She continues to devise and direct theatrically-inspired programmes such as Le Malade Imaginaire, and A Restoration Tempest, for the OAE. She was one of the artistic advisory team for the York Early Music Festival, 2011-14, and returned to York in 2016 with Theatre of the Ayre as judge for the National Centre for Early Music’s Young Composers’ Award. She has given premiere performances of solo and chamber pieces by James MacMillan, Benjamin Oliver, Heiner Goebbels and Rachel Stott. In June 2019 she gave the première performances of Nico Muhly’ Berceuse for solo theorbo, in Cleveland USA and Aldeburgh UK. The piece was written for her in 2018.

Elizabeth Kenny taught for two years at the Hochschule der Künste Berlin, was Professor of Musical Performance at Southampton University 2004-18 and Director of Performance and Performance Studies at Oxford University 2018-20. She has been Professor of Lute at the Royal Academy of Music since 1999 and took up the post of Dean of Students in January 2020.

Last updated: Sep 2020