Elizabeth 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 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. Her most recent solo recording, Ars Longa (Linn Records) was nominated for the BBC Music Magazine Solo Instrumental recording of the year 2019.
Kenny formed her own group, Theatre of the Ayre in 2007. Their various touring projects have sealed a reputation for an innovative and improvisatory approach to seventeenth-century music. Notable recording projects include John Blow’s Venus and Adonis (Wigmore Live, 2011). The Masque of Moments (Linn, 2017) and C17 Playlist, with tenor Ed Lyon (Delphian).
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, Rachel Stott and Nico Muhly.
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.
…she beautifully combines an expansive orchestral conception with an almost painful improvisatory intimacy. It’s just lovely.
Gramophone review of ‘Ars Longa: Old and New Music for Theorbo’, Aug 2019
Instrumental Choice: 'This era-spanning album is a triumph...Kenny's performances are superb, technically assured in the trickiest variations, and always with a sense of spontaneous re-creation.'
BBBC Music Magazine Sept 2019
Attracting audiences with the familiar is a well-worn tactic, but the Theatre of the Ayre likes to do things differently… Its weapons: a freshness of approach and a quasi-improvisatory freedom of delivery.
Financial Times 2015