Listening to a Theorbo?

Every once in awhile, I find myself browsing  selections available through our streaming service,  Naxos Music Library, looking for new classical music. Recently, I stumbled upon this recording of Bach’s Cello Suites (a favorite of mine) played on.. the theorbo? What could that possibly be? and who could want to use any other instrument than a cello for these pieces? Blasphemy, I say!

Bach Cello Suites played on the Theorbo


Still, I was intrigued and needed to learn more. As I listened, I began searching for information. According to Oxford Music Online,  it is “An instrument of the Western lute family with stopped courses considerably longer than those of a lute … During the 17th century and part of the 18th the theorbo was popular as an accompanying instrument, and in the 17th century a certain amount of solo music in tablature was published for it.”

Digging a little deeper, I was able to find several images of the instrument in the Bridgeman Art Library Archive merely by searching it in Credo Reference. Who knew a lute had so many configurations?

Of course, I kept searching the web for some more background information and ended up watching a video that explains a little more about the instrument and its tuning:

All in all, it was a successful journey! I discovered a hidden treasure in this recording (now currently my favorite!) and learned more than I had expected about the intrepid theorbo.