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Booklet of CD-16300 "The Two Francescos" by Peter Croton, lute. Released 2013 Carpe Diem Records

Transcript of cd-16300 booklet

  • 2Peter Croton - lute


    1. Libro primo no. 30 03:402. Libro primo no. 25 02:243. Libro secondo no. 43 01:174. Libro primo no. 36 02:265. Libro secondo no. 41 01:416. Libro primo no. 37 02:197. Libro primo no. 31 01:498. Libro primo nos. 29 & 28 02:219. Libro primo no. 34 01:39

    10. Ricercar (4) 01:0311. Ricercar (2) 02:0212. Fantasia (33) 03:3313. Fantasia (34) 03:3714. Fantasia (40) 01:1015. Ricercar (16) 01:3916. Ricercar (51) 02:5717. Fantasia (15) 02:0118. Fantasia (32, 31 & 61) 03:2719. Fantasia (67) 01:5820. Fantasia (38) 01:5721. Ricercar (91) 01:0422. Ricercar (84) 01:1323. Fantasia (82) 01:53

    Francesco Spinacino(late 15th, early 16th centuries): Recercares from the Intabo-latura de lauto, Venice 1507

    Francesco Da Milano(1497-1543)numbered according to The Lute Music of Francesco Canova da Milano, edited by Arthur J. Ness

    Total time 49:23

  • 4

  • 5Instrumental music in Europe was in transition at the turn of the 16th century. New compositional techniques based on improvisation and on vocal models, as well as the change in lute playing from plectrum- to finger-technique, resulted in one of the most important innovations in western music, namely the creation of an instrumental repertoire. In addition, the early 16th century saw a growing interest in the rhetorical aspects of music, which influenced performance and ultimately led to the development of a new compositional style in the latter part of the century. That the lute played a central role in these developments was no accident; its widespread use in the 16th century can only be compared to the use of the guitar in the 20th

    century a ubiquitous instrument used for popular as well as classical music. In order to understand these changes, as well as the music of the two Francescos, let us take a brief look at the world of instrumental music in the 15th and 16th centuries.

    Instrumentalists in the 15th century were primarily improvisers, extemporizing on pre-existing works or spontaneously creating new ones in combination with singers and other instrumentalists. The 15th century also saw the lute emerge as a solo instrument. Pieces were often based on pre-existing songs, dances or polyphonic vocal compositions, and the term ricercar as well as the later term fantasia were used for works created without one of these models. The ability to improvise was apparently as widespread then as it is in jazz today. In the early 1480s Tinctoris describes a scene in which two lutenists perform together: one playing a pre-existing tenor line, the other improvising above it in a complex and virtuosic manner. This is a clear description of single-line plectrum playing, the predominant manner of lute playing around 1500. However, in the 2nd half of the 15th century lutenists began


  • 6to use the individual fingers of the right hand to produce a polyphonic texture. Tinctorus also describes this new way of playing: Furthermore, others will do what is much more difficult; namely to play a composition alone, and most skillfully, in not only two parts, but even in three or four. 1 Thus arose a style of improvisation including alternation of chords, single lines, and counterpoint. Although various manuscripts from the late 15th century hint at this style of playing, the first extensive collection of this type of music is the 1507 Petruccci publication of 2 books of lute tablature by Francesco Spinacino. No biographical information about Spinacino survives, but the fact that he was chosen by Petrucci for the first published collection of lute music suggests that he was held in high esteem. In the introduction to this book, Cristoforo Pierio Gigante states, in praise of Spinacino, that he excites the ears with his mellifluous song and with the Thracian lyre, and goes on to compare the effect that Spinacino has on listeners to Orpheus with his lyre.2 In addition, Philippo Oriolo da Bassano includes Spinacino in a list of renowned 15-century lutenists in his poem Monte Parnaso (c 1520).3 Spinacinos two lute books contain 81 pieces including 27 recercares. The other pieces are mostly intabulations of vocal music, and the paucity of dance music suggests that this genre was not important to him. For this recording, I have chosen 10 of his recercares. Improvisatory, searching and rhapsodic in nature, they are similar in spirit to the later prelude and toccata and not so far removed from the spontaneous creations of someone like the pianist Keith Jarrett, who lets inspiration guide him in creating music that is unique to the moment. This brings us to the present day, where most classical musicians are trained to interpret, but not necessarily to create music - in stark contrast to earlier musicians, who were trained in the art of creating music, be it through composition, improvisation, or both. This raises the question of how todays musicians can communicate with music from an earlier, improvisatory tradition. The typical modern approach of respecting the composers wishes is not entirely relevant, because the composers wishes

  • 7regarding tempo, phrasing, articulation, dynamic, etc were not indicated. Even the established method of analyzing the music to guide interpretive decisions may not necessarily do the music justice.

    For me personally, the way into the heart of this music is the way of the improviser, even as we play music that has been written down. It has to do with allowing an inner state enabling us to feel as if we are actually improvising and creating this music in the moment creating within ourselves the illusion that we are playing this music for the first time, with all the passions and sense of wonder which accompany this feeling. Each performance may be different, but each one will be complete in itself, with the kind of beauty and expression which could also arise from simply plucking one note. Modern critics have often called Spinacinos music chaotic and incomprehensible, yet I feel that this conclusion can be drawn only when viewed from a modern analytical point of view. When experienced as an exploration and seeking out, the music becomes quite magical, takes on its own inner logic and progresses fairly coherently from phrase to phrase, albeit with surprises and unexpected twists and turns along the way.

    That Francesco Canova da Milano (1497 1543), our next composer on this recording, had this gift of magic is well documented in a description of his playing: he sits down to play at a banquet, and as if tuning his strings begins to seek out a fantasia. The guests become silent and, according to the writer, the listeners are deprived of all senses save that of hearing and transported into a kind of divine frenzy.4 This description seems to depict an improvised performance, and since Francesco da Milano was a master of counterpoint, it appears that he was just as capable of improvising counterpoint as he was of composing it. His music is characterized by a tension between the free-wheeling improvisation typical of Spinacino and the

  • 8pristine polyphony typical of the vocal music of masters such as Josquin des Prez. The magic in Francesco da Milanos music lies, therefore, not only in the spontaneous creation of free-form music, but also in the art of performing multiple lines on a single instrument, creating the illusion that more than one instrument is being played. His fantasias and ricercare, although not based on specific vocal models, use similar compositional techniques such as motivic imitation, and emulating singers in performance was paramount. As Ganassi pointed out in 1535: just as a gifted painter can reproduce all the creations of nature by varying his colors, you can imitate the expression of the human voice on a wind or stringed instrument Thus only will you play a melody artistically when, by the variety of your expression, you are able to imitate the human voice. 5 I find that the challenge to the lutenist is to create a dynamism in the voices such that each line is phrased and expressed individually. In his book of 1542/43, Ganassi also encourages musicians to emulate the art of the orator, a clear indication that emphasis on rhetorical expression in music was valued earlier in the 16th century than commonly acknowledged. In contrast to Spinacinos absence from the historical record, Francesco da Milano is well documented. He was born in Monza, Italy, worked for many years at the papal court and was considered the foremost lute composer of his time. Such was his genius that he was called il divino, an honor also bestowed upon Michelangelo.

    The exploration of this music has been made more fascinating by the 6-course lute built in 1992 by Michael Lowe. Although very little is known about early 16th century lute construction, Michael has used the information available and his vast experience to create a lute which may well come close to the lutes of the time. I feel that Michael has captured what would have been essential for the earlier instruments; clear, direct, and well balanced from bass to treble. In the next section of these notes Michael discusses the ideas which influenced the building of this instrument.

  • 9A personal note: despite repeated assurances to the contrary, the temperature in the church never rose above 15c (59 f). I was sustained during those cold, difficult days by the beauty of the music and the patience and support of my producer, Jonas Niederstadt. In addition, the church had a personality of its own, with regular creaks and moans, some of which unavoidably ended up on the recording. And there was a bird which spent those days perched outside a window, singing along when I played and falling silent when I stopped. To this sweet soul, who obviously enjoyed the music enough