THE LUTE SOCIETY
Quarterly Meeting November 24 2007
For a newcomer, this was an inspiriting day. I was introduced to this flourishing Society by committee member Mark Wheeler of Pantagruel, a group which had made a memorable appearance at the recent Greenwich Early Music Festival earlier in the month.
Players, Makers & Owners of lute family instruments in Britain c.1700-1890, a talk by Peter Holman
Specialist music historian Peter Holman (director of The Parley of Instruments) described novelties introduced to sustain interest before the lute gradually died out in England in the mid-18 C. The revival of interest in old instruments was apparently begun by Prince Albert, followed soon by Rudolph Dolmetsch.
I learned from talking with members of the Society that Julian Bream and his eponymous broken consort (founded 1960) played a significant part in the burgeoning movement as regards the lute family; some of the professionals there today vouched for his influence.
That session, displaying the fruits of a week's collaborative work, left me feeling that participating in David van Edwards' summer school in Norwich would be a wonderful way to spend a week. Martyn Hodgson easily demonstrated the beauties of an instrument that he'd never handled before, and went on to give a short set of pieces on a mandora of his own, impressing me with the steadiness of pulse underlying the decorated melody lines.
Most of the songs selected are to be heard in Emma Curtis's enterprising discs of 52 of them with The Frolick. My feeling was that her interpretations, and her vocal quality, had developed beyond their recording [Calliope - Volume the First Avie 2102].
There were some changes in the programme, including a mini-recital by Arngeir Hauksson, an Icelandic lutenist, who included a Jimi Hendrix piece with live looping and layering...
The afternoon ended wth a stylish recital by the Irish lutenist Richard Sweeney, who announced his programme of Weiss etc favourites from the platform.
Do explore Andrew Maginley's superb CDs of Falkenhagen Sonatas for the dark-toned baroque lute [Centaur CRC 2541] and his more recent one [Avie 2115] of Weiss, Falkenhagen and Maginley's own arrangement of Bach's cello suite BWV1007, its rationale fully explained in his scholarly liner notes. (Pantagruel's CD Elizium will be reviewed separately.)
Peter Grahame Woolf
Quarterly Meeting January 19 2008:
I attended the morning session of the subsequent January meeting, also at Swedenborg Hall, because I was intrigued that it would feature the Society's annual competition for a new composition for lute.
This was very much an "in-house" event, with fourteen new settings performed of Shakespeare's Orpheus and his lute. They were then short listed by show of hands, and the preferred few sung again before the audience determined the winner.
Before the competition, there was a delightful and engrossing illustrated talk by Michele Carreca about the lutenist composer Giacomo Gorzanis, several of whose pieces had been recorded by Jakob Lindberg, who was present.
The competition entries proved to be disappointingly backward looking (lutenists are a conservatively inclined group) and although most of the settings would be acceptable in a lute accompanied song recital or on stage, the only one to show some awareness of recent compositional trends was by a composer only identified as "No 8", whose (to me) more interesting song won very few votes...
There was also a presentatiion to Ian Harwood, current president, who had been granted the MBE in the Queen's New Year's Honours List, who made a very amusing acceptance speech sharing the ways in which those matters are communicated to the recipient. He thought this might have been the first recognition by the Establishment of the arly Music movement?
Emma Curtis Photo: credit Dorothea Heise (+49 163 4373437)