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Travels with my Lute

Travels with my Lute

Ref: CDG1114

31 tracks 68 min
Click here to preview trk 3

Fine Renaissance music

The gentle lute: played by one of Britain's leading virtuosos, Lynda Sayce, this programme draws together the best lute music of the Renaissance, contrasting the different regional musical styles which emerged during the golden period of lute composition.

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The gentle lute: played by one of Britain's leading virtuosos, Lynda Sayce, this programme draws together the best lute music of the Renaissance, contrasting the different regional musical styles which emerged during the golden period of lute composition. Played on a variety of different lutes as appropriate.

six course lute
1 Fantasia Marco da L'Aquila (fl. XVIth century)
Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Mus Ms 266
2 Calata alla spagnola detto terzetti Joanambrosio Dalza (fl. 1508)
3 Pavana alla Ferrarese
4 Saltarello
5 Piva
Dalza, Intabulatura di Lauto. Libro Quarto. Venice 1508
6 Fantasia Petro Paulo da Milano (fl. XVIth century)
7 Tocha tocha la canella Anonymous/ Giovanni Antonio Casteliono
Giovanni Antonio Casteliono, Intabolatura de leuto de diversi autori. Milan 1536
8 Ricercar (Ness 51) Francesco da Milano (1497-1543)
Intabolatura de lautto Libro Settimo. Recercari novi del divino M. Francesco da Milano. Venice 1548
9 Ricercar (Ness 40)
Intabolatura de lauto di M. Francesco Milanese et M. Perino Fiorentino. Libro Terzo. Venice 1547

bass lute
10 Preambel in Re Anonymous
11 Mein Vleis und Mue Ludwig Senfl (c.1486-c.1543) anon. setting
Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Mus. Ms. 1512
12 Elslein liebstes Elslein mein Ludwig Senfl
Hans Newsidler, Ein Newgeordent künstlich Lautenbuch. Nuremberg 1536
13 Der Beyrisch Bok Tantz weyss/Der Hupff auff Hans Newsidler (c.1508-1563)
14 Vita in ligno moritur, prima pars Ludwig Senfl
15 König Ferdinandus Tantz/Der Hupff auff Hans Newsidler
Hans Newsidler, Das Ander Buch. Ein new künstlich Lauten Buch. Nuremberg 1549
16 Ein Welscher Tantz Wascha Mesa/Der Hupff auff
Hans Newsidler, Ein Newgeordent künstlich Lautenbuch. Nuremberg 1536

six course lute
17 Fortune laisse moy Pierre Attaignant (ca.1494-1551/2)
Pierre Attaignant, Tres breve et familiere introduction. Paris 1529
18 Basse dance 'La Maddalena' - recoupe - tordion
Pierre Attaignant, Dixhuit Basses Dances garnies. Paris, 1530
19 Mille regretz Josquin des Prez (c.1440 - 1521)
1st setting: Pierre Phalèse, Hortus Musarum. Louvain 1552
2nd setting: Pierre Phalèse, Des Chansons Reduictz en tabulature de Luc, Livre deuxiéme. Louvain 1546
20 Tant que vivray Claude Sermisy (1490-1562)
Pierre Phalese, Des Chansons Reduictz en Tablature de Luth, Livre Premier. 2nd edition. Louvain 1547
21 Passemeze Adrian le Roy (c.1520-1598)
A briefe and easye instrution. London 1568 (English translation of a lost French lute book of 1557)
22 Bransle Guillaume Morlaye (c.1510-c.1558)
Uppsala, University Library, MS 412
23 Branle gay Adrian le Roy
Adrian le Roy, Premier livre de tablature de luth. Paris 1551

seven course lute
24 Passamezzo Pavan (bass lute) John Johnson (c.1540-1594)
Cambridge, University Library, Ms Dd.2.11
25 Galliard: Muy Linda Anthony Holborne (fl.1584-1602)
Cambridge, University Library, Ms. Dd.5.78.3
26 Almain: The night watch
Willey Park, Shropshire, private library of Lord Forrester, John Welde lute book
27 Jig: Wanton
Cambridge, University Library, Ms. Dd.5.78.3
28 Fantasia a 5 John Dowland (1563-1626)
Cambridge, University Library, Add. Ms 3056
29 Lachrimae
Cambridge, University Library, Ms. Dd.5.78.3
30 Galliard
London, British Library, Hirsch Ms 1353
31 Mr Dowland's Midnight
London, Royal Academy of Music, Ms 603, (The Margaret Board lute book)

The lute encapsulates the spirit of the renaissance. It was immortalized in poetry by Ronsard and Shakespeare, and on canvas by Holbein, da Vinci, Titian and Raphael. It was played by Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, Martin Luther and Galileo. Its huge and magnificent repertory is one of the artistic glories of the 16th century, and, true to the spirit of the age, it was constantly being reborn as different cultures adopted it and made it their own.

The earliest lute manuscripts date from years around 1500, when lutenists had only recently adopted the new-fangled technique of plucking with the fingers. The lute was originally played with a plectrum, which largely confined it to playing single lines. Plucking with the fingers made polyphony possible on a single lute, and suddenly lutenist-composers had a subtle and versatile instrument of unrivalled emotive power, uniquely possessing both the chromatic capability of keyboard instruments, and the dynamic and tonal flexibility of the harp. This description of the playing of Francesco da Milano, known as 'il Divino', gives some idea of the lute's power:

The tables being cleared, he chose one and, as if tuning his strings, sat on the end of a table seeking out a fantasia. He had barely disturbed the air with three strummed chords when he interrupted conversation which had started among the guests. Having constrained them to face him, he continued with such a ravishing skill that little by little, making the strings languish under his fingers in his sublime way, he transported all those who were listening into so pleasurable a melancholy that ... they remained deprived of all senses save that of hearing, as if the spirit, having abandoned all the seats of the senses had retired to the ears in order to enjoy the more at its ease so ravishing a harmony; and I believe ... that we would be there still, had he not himself - I know not how - changing his style of playing with a gentle force, returned the spirit and the sense to the place from which he had stolen them, not without leaving as much astonishment in each of us as if we had been elevated by an ecstatic transport of some divine frenzy.

Decades later, the English traveller Fynes Morison noted that

The Italians, and especially the Venetians, have in all tymes excelled [in the Art of Musick], and most at this day, not in light tunnes and hard striking of the stringes, (which they dislike), ... but in Consortes of grave soleme Musicke, sometymes running so sweetely with softe touching of the stringes, as may seeme to ravish the hearers spiritt from his body...

The Germans, on the other hand, 'like them better who strike hard upon the strings, then those who with a gentile touch make sweeter Melody, which they thincke fitter for Chambers to invite sleepe, then for feasts to invite mirth and drincking.' Appropriately enough, German lute collections are replete with lively dances, and German paintings and engravings show a definite preference for large lutes, well-suited to vigorous playing, but also prized for their exquisite sonority. Sadly the wonderful German lute repertory is rarely heard today, because it was written in a particularly tortuous notation system which had no stave but used the entire alphabet twice over, plus several numbers and a few Greek letters too.

The lute was the pre-eminent courtly instrument of mid-16th France, ennobled in verse by the great French poet Ronsard, who hailed it as 'the glory and trophy of Phoebus', capable of curing lovesickness and envious cares. The influential Ronsard admired chanson composers, and Josquin above all, so not surprisingly arrangements (called intabulations) of vocal music are extremely important in French lute collections.

The final flowering of renaissance lute music occurred in England in the latter half of Elizabeth I's reign. English taste eschewed vocal intabulations in favour of dance forms and variation sets. John Johnson (d.1594) was the first major English lute composer. Both he and Anthony Holborne (d.1602) served Elizabeth, the former as one of her 'Musitians for the three lutes', the latter as a gentleman usher. Ironically the greatest English lutenist, John Dowland, was repeatedly denied a court position, perhaps because of his Catholicism but more likely because of his difficult personality. He and Francesco da Milano may be considered the alpha and omega of the renaissance lute, both in terms of their international fame and the longevity of their music.

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