Robert Ballard II was a lute virtuoso who also happened to have a pretty good gig. He was a music tutor to a young Louis XIII. His father and cousin ran a prestigious music publishing house in Paris. And they, of course, published young Robert’s two collections of lute works.

Lutenist Richard Kolb performs 30 of the 56 pieces from Le Premier livre de luth. Kolb funded this project through Kickstarter, and I think the investors got their money’s worth.

It’s elegant music, full of well-crafted counterpoint and tuneful melodies. Kolb notes that Ballard’s music seems balanced between the late Renaissance and early French Baroque. And so it is.

Kolb performs with a 10-course lute. In some passages, it seems as if everyone’s playing a different line!

The lute is close-mic’d, giving it a clean, intimate sound. Finger motions (and occasionally breathing) can be heard. To me, those sounds add to the performance, creating a sense of intimacy.

Kolb writes, “Ballard’s music comes across to me as having an easygoing charm and unaffected gracefulness.” Indeed so — especially in Kolb’s performances.

Robert Ballard: Premier livre de luth, 1611
Richard Kolb, lute
Centaur