Mudarra Libros De Musica En Cifras Para Vihuela
The 11 extant books of music for the vihuela span, with one exception, a period of only 42 years and were all published in Spain. As the earliest (Luis Milan, 1536) is also a book of instruction it seems that the instrument was then already well enough entrenched to justify its publication. The vihuela was lute-like in its six pairs of strings and their tuning, but had a guitar-shaped body; Juan Bermudo wrote (1555) that if you remove the outer two (pairs of) strings from a vihuela, you have a guitar. Mudarra's Tres libros de musica en cifras para vihuela (1546) contain the first known pieces for the four-course guitar that was to develop into the instrument we have today.
Quasi-contrapuntal fantasias and sets of diferencias (variations—a form which the vihuelistas were among the first to develop) formed the bulk of the music in the 11 books, the vihuela being considered the proper receptacle for serious and aristocratic music. Mudarra's fantasias are, collectively, more winsome and adventurous than many others. The 'serious' element is also reflected, as it was in the lute repertory, in numerous intabulations and embellishments (glosas) of religious works by other composers, of which there are five on this recording, and in the small number of dance pieces in these books; Mudarra is unusually generous in this respect and provides the sole example of a galliard for the vihuela.
Hopkinson Smith has assembled a fine selection of the music from the Tres libros (for both vihuela and guitar) and he plays it with a freedom and spirit, and absence of dryness, that project the lyricism and humanity of its composer. The recording and annotation are first-class.'