A Varietie of Lute Lessons
A Varietie of Lute Lessons, compiled by Robert Dowland, was the last book of lute tablature to be published (1610) in England, and it is important both for the internationality and high quality of the music it contains. Six genres are represented, each by seven pieces: fantasies, pavans, galliards, almaines, corantos and voltes. Several items lack attribution in the original book, but the authors of Sir John Smith's Almain and Volt No 2 have been identified, and the named composer of Fantasie No 4, 'The Knight of the Lute', is revealed as Laurencini di Roma. Those naive enough to believe that early manuscripts were fault-free would be sorely mistaken in this instance. The first note and last chord in the first item, Fantasie No 1, by Diomedes Cato, are wrong; North has, of course, corrected them but has not corrected what is widely recognised as an error in Sir John Smith's Almain (track 12, 07'27''), confirmed in the division of the same strain (17'33''). The few others elsewhere are duly amended.
In making his selection North has wisely passed over some of the 'pops' in favour of less well-known pieces, including: the magnificent Pavan No 1 dedicated to John Dowland and quoting from Lachrymae; the beautiful Fantasie No 4 of Laurencini with its joyous chain of suspensions at the climax; and Bacheler's unusually structured variations on Monsieur's Almaine - long, but worth every minute. Robert Dowland's Lady Clifton's Spirit edges interestingly away from the Renaissance and toward the Baroque. I yield to no one in my high regard for North's unfailingly musical and stylish performances - full of warmth - and for the clarity with which they are recorded.