Although Rolf Lislevand had established his credentials in the twentieth century as a gifted and fairly traditional Baroque guitarist and lutenist, in recent times he has tended to avoid presenting the music he performs in an authentic way, asserting that to reproduce the music the way it was originally heard, and intended to be heard, is not actually possible. He has thus attempted to give Baroque compositions a twenty first century sound, often imparting a modern or even jazzy character to the music. He has typically performed both solo works and chamber/vocal works, the latter with his own septet. The instruments typically used by the group in concerts and on recordings have included harp and voice (Arianna Savall, daughter of Jordi Savall, filling both roles), Baroque guitar, theorbo, various percussion, organ, double bass, clavichord, colascione, nykelharpa, and chitarra battente, a 12-string Baroque guitar. Much of Lislevand's early career was spent as a member of Jordi Savall's group Hesperion XX, with whom he gave many concerts and appeared on many recordings. Lislevand's numerous recordings can be found on a variety of labels, including ECM Records, Naïve, and Astree-Auvidis.
Lislevand was born in 1961 in Oslo, Norway. He studied music and guitar at the Norway Academy of Music from 1980-1984. Further training came over the next three years at the prestigious Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Basel, Switzerland, where he studied with American lutenist Hopkinson Smith (who was a co-founder of Hesperion XX) and Eugène Dombois.
Lislevand had begun playing with Hesperion XX by 1987, the year he relocated to Verona and began to study seventeenth century Italian music. Of the many recordings Lislevand made with Hesperion XX, the 1993 Astree-Auvidis CD España: Anthology of Spanish Music was among the more popular and critically acclaimed efforts.
In 1993 Lislevand joined the faculty of the Staatliche Hochschule in Trossingen, Germany, a post he still held in 2007. In the new century, Lislevand has continued to appear regularly both as soloist and as chamber player with his own ensemble. His 2006 CD Nuove Musiche, on ECM Records, has achieved great success, both with critics and the public. Because of its success and Lislevand's growing popularity in the U.S., he was invited to appear on the American broadcast network National Public Radio, where he elaborated eloquently on his still controversial approach toward Baroque music performance. La Mascarade (2016) was his first solo recording for the ECM label.