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The Great Silence

Scene 1: You are in the audience in a modern concert hall. The stage is lit, the music stands are in place. When the musicians come onto the stage, the audience bursts into applause and the performers bow. The first piece of music is lively and elaborate, and at the end the audience applauds again – and the performers bow again.

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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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Luteshop’s Summer Concert 2016 – A short report

Richard Barnfield (1574-1627), from Poems in Divers Humours, 1598
To His Friend Master R.L., in Praise of Music and Poetry

If music and sweet poetry agree,
As they must needs (the sister and the brother),
Then must the love be great ‘twixt thee and me,

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Ut re mi fa so la

The most basic materials for a composer to work with – the hexachord. The first piece is by Alfonso Ferrabosco, from the Hirsch lute book (BL MS Hirsch M 1353, f.64v. and also found in Dd.2.11, f.54v.).

The second is something of a blockbuster by Diomedes (Cato) of Venice,

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Courantes and Voltas

Courante by Monsieur Saman, and a related Volta.

René Saman (fl. 1610-31), lutenist to Louis XIII, is known to us only from a few courantes in publications by Robert Dowland, Robert Ballard, Jean-Baptiste Besard, and Lord Herbert of Cherbury’s lute book.  This is perhaps his best known piece, as it appeared in Robert Dowland’s Varietie of Lute Lessons (1610).

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