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Posted October 1, 2010
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"Early Venetian Lute Music" journeys back to a time when music printing was in its infancy. Ottaviano Petrucci's early 16th century publications represent the first music to be printed in mass quantities using movable type. This recording draws upon Petrucci's books as well as Vincenzo Capirola's manuscript of his own works dating from approximately 1517. The result is an expertly performed set of early lute music that should easily appeal to modern ears.
Renaissance lute music bridges the worlds of popular and courtly music. Lutenists absorbed popular dance music and adapted it to entertain their courtly audiences. Examples include Joan Ambrosio Dalza's lively "Calata No. 3 a la spagnola," and his "Pavana alla veneziana," a miniature suite with movements that progress from a stately duple meter to a fast triple meter. Several dances are preceded by "recercars," preludes which usually exhibit an improvisatory quality (as heard in Dalza's "Tastar de corde"). We also hear arrangements of popular vocal works, such as Francesco Spinacino's "Jay pris amours," that feature busy melodies supported by a slower-moving accompaniment.
Lutenist Christopher Wilson, a veteran of the early music scene, beautifully captures the charming beauty of these works. Though the music presents an opportunity for a display of virtuosity, Wilson prefers a gentler approach; his tone is somewhat muted, and an atmospheric echo softens the overall sound. On several tracks, he is ably accompanied by second lutenist Shirley Rumsey.
Don't be scared off by the "early music" label; the graceful charm of "Early Venetian Lute Music" should satisfy newcomers to Renaissance music as well as aficionados. Listen to it for enjoyment, for edification, or for both.