Monthly Archives: September 2016

Dowland’s ‘Tremolo’ Fantasia: What’s wrong with it?

Dowland’s famous “tremolo” fantasia is familiar from many performances, starting with Julian Bream in the 1970s and continuing to be a favourite piece amongst modern lutenists.

This piece appears in the Collected Lute Music of John Dowland (London: Faber. 3rd edition, 1981; edited by Diana Poulton and Basil Lam;

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A tastar de corde, recercar, and calata by Joanambrosio Dalza

It is now over 500 years since the publication (on the last day of  December 1508) of  Dalza’s Intabulatura de lauto.  It was the fourth lute book published by Petrucci, the first two being the two volumes of Spinacino and the third the (lost) book of Giovanni Maria Alemani.  

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Almains by John and Robert Dowland

The Margaret Board lute book, written c.1620 and unknown until it was offered for sale in 1970, is a fascinating source, not least because it contains a substantial quantity of John Dowland’s handwriting.  He wrote a theoretical table showing the Gam ut on f.1v. and two pieces: an Almande by Robert Dowland on f.12.v.

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Was Dowland a composer of lute music?

Practically the entire corpus of English lute music exists only in manuscript. It was customary for a composer to include an instrumental piece in a printed book of songs, but apart from those few pieces we have only William Barley’s Newe Booke of Tabliture (1596), Thomas Robinson’s Schoole of Musicke (1603),

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Fantasia by Benedict de Drusina

Benedict de Drusina (c.1520 – after 1573) published his Tabulatura at Frankfurt an der Oder in 1556.  It starts with four fantasias: the first and second appear in publications by Matthäus Waissel (the second also in various other sources including Besard’s 1603 anthology).  The third is cognate with a piece by Melchior Newsidler and a version is also found in the Siena Lute Book (without title,

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Are lutenists less HIP than they used to be?

First we had “authenticity”, then we had “historically informed performance” (HIP). What do we have now?

This is a book-length topic, of course, so I can only make a few remarks which relate specifically to the lute.

A bit of history – from the pioneering work of Dolmetsch and others in the early 20th century,

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[Prelude] by Anon. (CUL Add.3056, f.10v.)

Cambridge University Library MS Add.3056 probably dates from around 1610, but most of the music is for a seven-course lute.  The copyist drew on a number of continental and English sources, including John Danyel’s song book of 1606.  This unusual piece, untitled and anonymous, is not found in any other source,

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Frets – Double vs Single

Most people today use rather thick single frets, but it seems in the past it was common to use thin double frets – can we learn anything from this? Lute iconography rarely shows enough detail to be sure whether the frets are single or double.

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