THE LUTE IN XVI CENTURY EUROPE
The surviving treasure of European lute
music represents the largest body of instrumental music composed before 1800,
amounting to over 30,000 individual pieces preserved in manuscripts and printed
books intended specifically for the lutenist, as well as in books of worship,
dance manuals, histories, theoretical works, broadsides, tutors, collections
for voice and other instruments, and iconographical sources. The importance
of this instrument and its impact on the history of European culture cannot
be overemphasized. The first books of instrumental music
ever published were the lute books published by Petrucci (1507) and
(1508), which were also among the first music books of any kind. In
1501, Ottaviano Petrucci inaugurated the first
series of printed part music in the history of Western music with the
Harmonice musicesodhecaton A, an anthology containing mainly French
secular songs. During the following fifteen years he produced some three dozen
more books of songs, Masses, motets, frottolas, lute music, and laude, all
in accurate and clear readings.
Throughout the Renaissance, the lute
was considered to have the closest affinity with the ancient Greek instruments.
By the end of the sixteenth century, the lute and chitarrone were considered
by musicians and poets as substitutes for the Orphic lyre, as well as a link
The lute was not viewed as a solo instrument
Tinctoris (1435-1511) when there was a shift from
monody to polyphony. Most of the literature about the lute comes after the
1500's. Before then, the lutes were played in consorts with haut cornets,
shaums, sackbuts, slide trumpets, basses, harps, citterns, percussion and psaltry.
The early lute was played
almost always with a quill held between i and m, or p and i. It
was held sometimes braced against a table. The last mention of
the plectrum style is around 1513.
Vincenzo de Capirola,
(1474-c1548) Italy, wrote one of the earliest lute books, and
confirms the rule that alternating p and i to cover the whole
range of the instrument is used when playing melodic passages.
In the early 1600's a
gradual style to thumb under technique was adopted by
many lutenists, reported in Valentin Barkfark's book of 1553.
The new technique was used extensively
in the Baroque period as the lute developed more courses, the
bass line became more active and the music had more harmonic changes.
Effects of thumb
under : easier to play diminutions p-i, strong beats
can be emphazised with p, except in triplets where pip-pip are
used. By 1632, this practice was torn by Alexander
Piccinini and as thumb out
technique developed, p plays rest-stroke specially on large course
1700's some players use nails.
Society of America- Downloads
THE LUTE IN ITALY
Giovanni Maria da Crema (1540-?)
Vincenzo de Capirola (1474-c1548)
Francesco Canova da Milano (1497-1543) "il divino"
He was Beatriz and Isabella d'Este's favorite lutenist at Mantua
and in 1519 he entered the service of Pope Leo X, remaining in
Rome as musician to Adrian VI and Clement the VII.
Vicenzo Galilei (1520-1591) " Dialogo de la Musica Antica
Alexander Piccinini (1560-1638)
"Intabolatura del Lauto"
played with nails and talks about shaping nails- there are four
books of his music published.
Simone Molinaro (1565-1615) Lute
Cesare Barbetta (1540- 1603)
Music for the Lute
Tabulations of vocal music-Intabolaturas
Dances- pavana, passe mezzo, saltarello,
galliard bassdance, padovana, piva spinardo.
Toccata- Intonaciones- Preambles
Variations-ornamentation on repeats,
augmentation and diminutions, variations on a ground, tunes slightly
changed but recognizable and continuous ans non-continuous variations.
Ballad (settings of popular songs)
Fantasias and Ricercare-
The earliest and best representative of this genre was Francesco
da Milano who wrote many for 6 string lutes.
1. Development of several points of imitation
2. Sections are similar
3. Contrasting chordal and contrapuntal sections
4.Strong harmonic progressions, especially in cadential sections
5. Clear phrasing but improvisation occurs affecting the rhythm
(in linear passages more than in chordal contrapuntal sections)
Francesco Canova da Milano- title page and
and Ricercar #11
THE LUTE IN GERMANY
The earliest source of information from Germany
is the Königstainer Liederbuch (1470-3)
Many treatises for amateur musicians appeared in Germany
during the Rennaisance. Most of them were written in German as opposed to
Latin. In German music for lute, three types of music are represented: Intabulations
of secular and sacred music in three voices, dances like
tanz or nacht tanz (German dance), passe
mezzo, pavanne, galliards,
based on foreign imports) and preambles.
(1480-1525) wrote the first printed collection of keyboard music
in 1512. This collection contained 140 organ pieces, 14 songs
with lute and 3 lute pieces. "Tablaturen
Etlicher Lobesang Lidlein"
wrote the first lute books with vocal tabulation "Introduction"of
1515 and "Ein Schone Kuntsliche Underweisung"
contains dances and preludes in a pseudo-polyphonic style, many
based on popular tunes of 1523. Both books were self-tutors with
exercises in graded difficulty. The invention of the complex tablature
used in early German lute books is attributed to him.
(?-1570) German lutenist; also a lute and viol maker. In the 1530s
he issued one of the more important German lute tablature books.
(1508-1563) German lutenist of Hungarian descent. Lived in Nürnberg
from 1530, and published four volumes of lute music, including
instructions on playing as well as pieces. These books contain
arrangements of sacred and secular vocal pieces, preludes in a
polyphonic rather than improvisatory style, and dances of various
(c.1540 - 1602) German lutenist and composer. Waissler
worked as headmaster of a school at Schippenbeil near Königsberg
from 1573; he published in that year a volume of lute arrangements
of vocal pieces, and in 1592 he issued a collection of German
dances for lute, which was the last lute tablature to be published
in Germany for many years.
THE LUTE IN FRANCE
The earliest music
written in French tablature found prior 1500's is the heart shaped 'Pesaro
The lute in France has a long historical tradition
attracting people from all over the world. There were lute schools
in towns, many amateur players, publishing houses and much activity
surrounding the nobility. The first printed lute book in France
was "Dixhuit Basses Dances"
1529 by Pierre Attaignant
(1494-1552). The same year he wrote "Très
Brève et Familière Introduction"
containing sets of popular tunes grouped Bass
Dance- Recoupe and Tourdion. Attaignant
wrote 70 collections of music containing some 2000 chansons,
20 of the items in the collection are instrumental books for lute,
keyboard, flute, recorder, guitar and ensemble music.
Robert Ballard and Adrian
Le Roy, two half brothers, established a
printing firm in 1551, publishing works of Lully and Couperin
in the XVIIc. They
were the most prolific and influential arrangers and composers
in France in the second part of the XVIc. Between 1557 and 1583
they published some 24 tablature books with instructions for plucked
instruments, lute cittern, Rennaisance guitar, mandolin and mandora.
Their most important book,
" Instruction for Intabulating all
music easily for the Lute," was
divided into three parts: how to intabulate vocal works with discussion
of the eight modes, explanation of tablatures and rules for playing
the lute, and a collection of chansons and other vocal pieces.
Le Roy started the "AIRE DE COUR"
songs with easy lute accompaniments.
Other Important French Composers
Jean Baptiste Bésard (1557-1625)
wrote two important books "Thesaurus
Harmonicus" 1603 a collection of 400 pieces of
21 composers. Besard was a Burgundian lawyer, physician and lutenist,
educated in Italy. He wrote solo lute music, duets, aires de cour
and arranged this material in 10 books according to the genre.
John Dowland translated them and published them in England. His
book "Novus Partus"
(1617) has a very international collection for 3
lutes and two voices and 12 duets.
(1570-1605) wrote " The Treasure
of Orpheus" where we read the first allusions
to Classical Themes. The first XVII c. publication for lute includes
fantasias, preludes gavottes courantes and voltes. There are no
vocal transcriptions and we sense the beginnings of a change of
Nicolas Vallet (1583- 1642)
an advocate of thumb out technique, settled in Amsterdam, composing,
teaching and performing. In Paris he published "The
Secrets of the Muses"1618-19 which contains 109
pieces for solo lute and 7 lute quartets. He also experimented
with different scordatura.
THE LUTE IN ENGLAND
Queen Elizabeth I, the first
child of Henry the VIII, was considered one of the best-educated
scholars and intellectuals of her day, particularly in languages
and philosophy. A true Renaissance princess, she devoured books
throughout her life and reign, trying to secure one or two hours
each day for quiet and contemplative study. Aside
from her interest in literature she was quite a good lute player,
using her skills to gain power and prestige.
The impetus for writing madrigals came through the influence
of Alfonso Ferrabosco, who worked
in England in the 1560s and 1570s in Queen Elizabeth's court;
he wrote many works in the form, and not only did they prove popular
but they inspired some imitation by local composers. The development
that caused the explosion of madrigal composition in England,
however, was the development of native poetry — especially
the sonnet — which was conducive to setting to music in
the Italian style. When Nicholas Yonge published
Musica Transalpina in 1588, it proved
to be immensely popular, and the vogue for madrigal composition
in England can be said to truly have started then. The most influential
composers of madrigals in England, and the ones whose works have
survived best to the present day, were Thomas
Morley, Thomas Weelkes and John Wilbye
Queen Elizabeth I of England and Ireland
The first lute book
in England, Willian Barley's translation
"A New Book of Tablature" 1596, containing
music for lute bandora and orpharion, comes one hundred years later
than in Italy. (Dowland's and Wilbye's music is represented in this book but
without their permission).
English Music for Lute
There seems to be no particular reason other than geographical
proximity why the English adopted French tablature. Most English
music for lute from 1590 to 1610 was for seven and eight course
lutes with fretted chromatic notes on the basses (e.g. all of
Dowland's Fantasias), this much easier to show in French than
in Italian tablatures. This trait was mostly seen in England while
the rest of Europe gravitated towards the use of multiple diatonic
The music of the English lute school survives in 85 manuscripts
and 5 printed sources containing 2100 pieces with an additional
1230 concordances.* From the years 1580 to 1615 we find indigenous
solo music, and some music with French tittles, although the English
favored the Italian musical models.
From 1580 we find the emergence of a national style,
but after 1615 English music was influenced by European music
especially French, the later period being exemplified by the period
labeled transitional tunnings.
Up until 1625 most lutes where tuned in vieil
by those who wrote airs de cour but the march towards
technical and virtuosic music demanding more complex chordal structures
involved the retuning of one or two courses of the lute up or
down a step. This led to the
nouveau-ton tunings as described
on the right, mostly used by those writing
solo music for lute.
The French composers of the XVII
century who experimented with these tunings were: Ennemond
Gautier (1575-1651)and his son Dennis
Gautier c. (1603-1672)
*A concordance is an alphabetical list of the principal
words used in a book or body of work, with their immediate contexts.
The earliest sources (c.1530-1580) written by a single
scribe are found in the Willoughby
manuscripts, they represent the end of a period of Italian
influence and the beginning of the English school of lute
The most important manuscripts from this
Mynshall Lute Book 1597 written by
The Sampson Book 1610
written by Henry Sampson.
The most important books from this period
A Variety of Lute Lessons
1610 by John Dowland
The School of Music 1603
by Robinson ( almost all Robinson)
The XII Wonders of the World 1611
by Maynard (all Maynard and transitional tunings)
The first part of the XVII
century was a period of considerable variability in the
tuning of the lute, particularly in France.
However, by around 1670
the scheme known today as the "Baroque" or "d-minor"
tuning became the norm, at least in France and northern
In this case the first
six courses outline a d-minor triad, and an additional
five to seven courses are tuned generally scale wise below
them. Thus the 13-course lute played by Weiss would have
been tuned [(A"A') (B"B') (C'C) (D'D) (E'E)
(F'F) (G'G) (A'A') (DD) (FF) (AA) (d) (f)], or with sharps
or flats on the lower 7 courses appropriate to the key
of the piece.
For more details about English Lute Sources
Lute Manuscripts and Scribes 1530-1630 by
Julia Craig- McFeely Oxford 2002
MUSIC AND COMPOSERS
The earliest leading figure in England is John
Johnson and little is known of his life.
He had a royal appointment in the court of England and left a large
number of manuscripts with popular ballads tunes of the quality of
John Dowland's music.
The most important lute composer of this era is John
Dowland (1553-1626) with an output of over 100 solo pieces
for lute, most of them appear in manuscripts. Dowland served most
of his life as a lutenist for Cristian the IV of Denmark and later
in his career, moved to serve James I of England. Dowland was renowned
world wide. The fantasias are his most impressive pieces, using long
melodic lines and imitative counterpoint and dramatic intervalic leaps.
Francis Cutting (c1550-1602)
was attached to the Howard family, the Earls of Arundel and succeeded
John Dowland in Denmark. His music is mostly extant but what remains
is of considerable high quality. He had ten children, and his son
Thomas Cutting became an acclaimed lutenist.
Anthony Holborne (1599-1602) became
a Gentleman Usher to Queen Elizabeth, and although he did not have
a musical appointment in the English court, he was called upon to
perform. His works appears in manuscripts and in the Barley Book and
A Variety of Lute Lessons by Dowland. He worked for Robert Cecil the
Earl of Salisbury.
(? )was entrusted to Sir Francis Walsingham at age 14 and by age 16
he was writing serious consort music. In 1594 he is recorded in the
household of Earl of Essex and by 1599 he was entrusted with letters
between Elizabeth and Essex. He never had a musical appointment in
Elizabeth's court but he served as Groom of the Privy Chamber to the
Queen, occupying one of the most senior positions among all the grooms.
He was extremely gifted at playing the lute. He also wrote over 40
works for the lute.
Robert Johnson (1583-1633)
son of John Johnson and an accomplished lutenist, explored extreme
registers in the lute and his pieces have a thick texture. Only 20
of his pieces survive.
The most important patron of the lute
in England was William Cavendish the Earl of
Devonshire (1551-1626) he employed lutenists, Thomas Cutting,
John and Robert Dowland, Mr. Maynard, Mr, Pierce and Mr. Louis. His
music collection represents the tastes of the nobility of the day
and the instrumental music shows a preference for lute songs, viol
consort, broken consort, lute and virginals.
Table from English
Lute Manuscripts and Scribes 1530-1630 by Julia
Craig- McFeely Oxford 2002
After 1620 the lute
lost its appeal in England and in Italy, but the Baroque Lute reached its
peak in France, during the reign of Louis XIII (1610-1615). At the end of
the XVII century, it was basically abandoned in France but it's influence
was apparent in works for keyboard.