The Golden Century | Lute Music from 16th Century Italy



Italian lute music of the 16th century
Alan Rinehart | Guitar

The music of the three generations of Italian composer/performers on this recording traces lute music in its development from dance, polyphonic and popular roots to a repertoire of stylized expressive abstract composition, music of extraordinary originality, rich harmony and exquisite detail. Unlike the lute music of Elizabethan and Tudor England, the majority of Italian music, beginning around 1500, survives in printed sources. A moveable type music printing technique developed by Ottaviano Petrucci meant that many copies of a lute book could be reproduced at relatively small cost. (Anyone looking at Petrucci’s prints today will immediately recognize them as works of art in themselves)

It is a testament to the popularity and widespread use of the lute in Italy that the first printed books of secular instrumental music were dances for that instrument by Spinacino and Dalza. This emphasis is an early and remarkable manifestation in music of the humanist movement in the Italian Renaissance.

Beginning in the middle of the 16th century, the dances give way to abstract compositions. Variously called ricercari or fantasia, (in England fancy, fantasy, or lesson), these compositions used purely instrumental figures in sequences of overlapping melodic material to establish and maintain a musical narrative. It is the first repertoire in music history which exploits ideas unrelated to vocal or dance models. Capirola and Spinacino were exponents of this early style of ricercar and this “searching out” of musical material became a form used much later by J. S. Bach in the middle of the 18th century.

The Fantasias by Francesco Canova (da Milano) are longer, explore more remote keys and musical material, and extend the range of the instrument’s music melodically and rhythmically. This rapidly developing and widely copied type of composition may be found in virtually every contemporary printed and manuscript source in every country in Europe. Francesco’s music enjoyed enduring appreciation long after his death. The Siena lute manuscript from 1585 contains music that is either confirmed to be by Francesco or certainly in the same style.

In the later 16th century, stylized dance forms based on the concept of variation become predominate, as the music of Terzi and Molinaro shows. They began to place the pieces into short groups of Corantos, Voltas and Gagliardas in the same key to avoid retuning and to extend the forms. But the Fantasia style persisted well into the next century.

This wealth of musical riches is readily available and well-suited to the modern concert guitar with only minor changes, but today’s students of the instrument study only a tiny fraction of this literature. The fact that most of the music is printed in tablature form has proven to be an impediment, since relatively little of the repertoire is available in conventional guitar notation. My objective in making this recording, aside from the enjoyment of listening to these superb masterpieces, is to open a window on this beautiful and personal music of the Italian Renaissance. I hope that hearing it played on the guitar will inspire others to explore these depths.

In playing this music, I followed some simple guidelines. It is important to understand that the music is played directly from its original notation–lute tablature–without changes, deletions or other enhancements. I prefer to think of them as adaptations rather than transcriptions and this is a guitar recording, not an attempt to imitate the lute. The pieces are played at the normal baritone pitch of the guitar, without the use of a capo on the neck, rather than at the higher pitch of the tenor lute. [Lutes were often made in families of instruments with different string lengths and body sizes adapted to ensemble playing, so it is entirely within historic practice that the music be played at this pitch. Indeed it provides a meditative and appealing sonority.] In order to preserve the chord structure and voicings so characteristic of the instrument, I opted to tune to guitar to the normal relative tuning of the lute, altering the third string so that the intervals remain the same. In accordance with the speaking articulation in use during the period, I minimized the slurring of notes (one pluck, several notes) which is common in the music of the guitar.

One of the fundamental differences between the lute of the 16th century and the modern concert guitar is the stringing of the two instruments. In order to overcome the short sustain of gut strings, earlier lutes’ bass courses were accompanied by a thinner string tuned an octave higher, which produces a shimmer in the sound, [an emphasis on higher partials]. There are numerous instances in which the higher of the two notes becomes important in the voicing, harmony and continuity of the melodic line. It is not really feasible to duplicate this feature on a single-stringed guitar, and I have added this note(s) where it is particularly important to the structure of the piece.

I am indebted to the work of Sarge Gerbode and Dick Hoban, who have made clear modern tablature versions of much of this music available both on the internet and in inexpensive printed versions. I recommend that anyone interested in the performance of these pieces consult their fine work in exploring the music of the period. Much of it is readily playable on the guitar–right from the page.

I acknowledge the advice and expertise of Clive Titmuss, early music specialist and luthier, who gave me valuable musical and editorial support in my project.

Finally I am most particularly grateful for the commitment of my wife, Janice Notland, without whose love and support this recording would not have been possible.

Alan Rinehart (SOCAN) January 2010

Notes on the composers:

Francesco Spinacino must have been highly recognized in his time for a major publication to be totally devoted to his music but there has been no biographical detail of his life discovered to date. The final of the four ricerecari, Recercare de tutti li toni (Recercar in all the tones (keys)) is of particular interest.

Joanambrosio Dalza, also, is only known for the wonderful music in the publication of 1508. Tastar de Corde, literally “Touching the Strings” is a free, semi-improvised introductory piece. The Calata and Piva are dances unique to this book.

Vincenzo Capirola was a Brescian nobleman who assembled a remarkable manuscript around 1517. Elaborately decorated to ensure its preservation, the book established the pattern followed by lute books of the period: a mixture of original ricercari in bold instrumental style, variations on chordal dance tunes and arrangements of polyphonic vocal pieces. Et in Terra pax hominibus (and on Earth be peace to humanity) is an instrumental setting of a vocal work by Josquin des Pres, the foremost composer of the early Renaissance.

Francesco Canova (da Milano) was regarded as the foremost lutenist of mid-16th c. generation. Given the honorific title Il Divino, his music was published in almost every country of Trans-alpine Europe. He is unique in that only a few of his vocal arrangements and dance variations are preserved–virtually his entire extant output consists of architecturally intricate Fantasias and Ricercari.

Pietro Paulo Borrono may have been a student of Francesco, as he published some of the latter’s finest fantasias along with his own chordal dance variations. It has recently come to light that he did espionage as well as musical duties for one of his employers. The Salterello was a common triple meter dance form La Traditorella was a popular melody of the time andBel Fiore means “Beautiful Flower“.

Alberto da Ripa found fame and fortune at the French court of Henri II. His immense output includes some of the finest and longest contrapuntal Fantasias ever written, extending the boundaries of the form in multi-sectional works that went well beyond the lute technique of most of his contemporaries. He was one of only a few lute composers to write for the nascent four-course guitar. The long fantasia on this recording is a superb example of his harmonic boldness.

Vincenzo Galilei was prominent in the group known as the Camerata and founded an important dynasty of Florentine thinkers: he was the father of Galileo Galilei, and Michelangelo Galilei, an influential lutenist at the Hapsburg court in Bavaria in the early 17th c. Vincenzo’s output is concentrated in his treatise on singing, Il Fronimo Dialogo, which asserts the primacy of the voice in music. Chiare, fresche e dolci acque (Clear, fresh and sweet water) is a vocal setting by the famous vocal composer Jaques Arcadelt (?1505-1568) of a sonnet by Petrarch.(1304-1374).

Giulio Cesare Barbetta placed greater emphasis on the emerging dance variation style which would dominated instrumental music in the 17th century. His music shows the influence of Spanish models at a time when south-eastern Spanish cities were a part of the Duchy of Milan. The subtitles Morescas (Moorish dances?) give a clue to the character of the pieces-Burgamasca is a short repeated chord progression, Canarie likely refers to the Canary Islands, and Mattacinomeans clown. The passamezo is in common or ordinary style (Comune)

Giovanni Antonio Terzi published two compendia of tablature in which the lute joined the fashion for diminution-playing. In this style the individual lines of famous madrigals and chansons are elaborately decorated by rapid notes. His music is distinguished by its dense texture and the emerging stylized dances of the turn of the 17th century.

Simone Molinaro is a Roman contemporary of Giovanni Palestrina. His extensive collection is entirely dominated by complex and virtuosic dance variations. He published the sober compositions of his mentor Gorzanis at the conclusion of the volume, a fitting epitaph of the Golden Century’s fascination with abstract composition on the lute.

Alan Rinehart has made many contributions to the guitar world as a performer, teacher and music editor. After completing studies at Western Michigan University and a Professional Music Training Diploma from Vancouver Community College, in 1978-79 he studied lute repertoire and technique in London, England at the Early Music Centre with Anthony Rooley, Jakob Lindberg, Nigel North, Christopher Wilson and Emma Kirkby.

In 1980 he gave a critically acclaimed London debut which was described by GUITAR INTERNATIONAL magazine as: “consistently clean and musical…he has a pleasantly relaxed stage manner which won over the audience right from the word go”. In addition to many concert recitals, he has performed at international music festivals in Spain, the United States, Toronto and Quebec and appeared on CBC radio and TV.

He is a co-founder of The Vancouver Guitar Quartet, which became a regular part of the Vancouver and Western Canadian music scene from the late 1980s to 2003, with many concert and radio appearances.

From 1983 to 2003 he was a faculty member of the music schools at the University of British Columbia (where he and Michael Strutt founded the guitar performance program) and Vancouver Community College.

His editorial work has included arranging and engraving the guitar performance edition of Weiss`s Moscow Manuscript for Editions Orphee and compiling and engraving a volume of music by A. J. Manjon for Chanterelle-Mel Bay as well as preparation of guitar solo and ensemble music for his own company NovaScribe Editions.

He moved to Kelowna BC in 2010 after living many years in Vancouver, B.C.

“fluent technique…all the allure one could ask” The Times of London

“Mr. Rinehart’s technique on the guitar was secure, his interpretation sensitive, and his tone excellent, He also possesses one of the most pleasant stage personalities I have come across”.
GUITAR INTERNATIONAL magazine, London, England

“A flexible technique, attractive sound, and disarming manner as accompanist and soloist”
CBC Broadcast review

Recorded at Serpico Audio Productions, Nelson BC December 2009/January 2010

Engineering and Mastering: Sean Davies and Ohan Vandermeer
Digital Editing: Alan Rinehart
Instrument: Masaru Kohno 15 (1975)
Strings: D’Addario J51
Related websites:

Artist: Alan Rinehart
Album: The Golden Century
Review by Matthew Warnock

Period repertoire ensembles have long existed to help bring to light not only the great masterpieces of centuries past, but also to perform them on historical instruments in order to replicate the sound of the original performances as accurately as possible. Additionally, there is a second camp of historical musicians that aim to bring classic pieces into the present tense with modern reinterpretations of these works, to varying degrees of success with audiences and critics alike. Guitarist Alan Rinehart’s latest album The Golden Century: Italian Lute Music of the 16th Century lies somewhere between these two approaches as he plays each piece on the album exactly as they were originally written, but on a modern guitar instead of the historically accurate lute. The result is an enjoyable album that leads one down a musical journey of the past, highlighting some of the composers who made the lute so popular those many years ago.

All of the pieces on the album, originally written for the lute, are performed by Rinehart on a contemporary 6-string classical guitar. The performer made one adjustment to his instrument, tuning the 3rd string down a half-step from G to F#, in order to allow him easier fingerings for chords that would have been awkward on a guitar in standard tuning. Other than this minor adjustment, each piece is performed exactly as written in the original tabbed manuscript, including avoiding slurs, which, though common in today’s guitar literature, were a rare occurrence in 16th century lute music.

By sticking to the original written scores, Rinehart allows his audience to experience each piece as they were intended to be heard when they were first written. While he does play them on a guitar instead of a lute, one can still grasp the historical accuracies of each piece, transporting them back five centuries to the time these works were originally written. Rinehart’s devotion to performing each piece as accurately as possible should be commended, as it would have been just as easy to adjust fingerings, change chord voicings and add ornamentations to any of these pieces, as others have often done when performing pieces from this era. Fans of 16th century music, and lute music in general, will no doubt enjoy this approach as it enlightens one to the writing style of the period, something that can be lost over time if not carefully preserved.

One of the other enjoyable aspects of the recording is the world-class performance by Rinehart. The guitarist is in fine form as he weaves his way through these 31 short pieces. His tone is warm when needed and thinner when is appropriate for the delivery of a passage. As well, his technical expertise on the instrument is apparent in the fact that the listener is never drawn to this aspect of his playing. One of the traits that great guitarists possess is the ability to let their strong technique blend into the piece as they are playing it, such as executing a difficult passage without making it sound difficult. Rinehart’s playing lies firmly in this category and it is one of the reasons that his guitar work is so enjoyable to listen to from a player’s and also a music lover’s perspective.

Though 16th century lute music isn’t for everyone, fans of the genre and of all classical music will find that this album makes a nice addition to their CD library. The pieces are historically accurate, yet played on a modern instrument, Rinehart’s guitar playing is absolutely first rate and the pieces themselves are enjoyable to listen to, all of the things that make a great classical guitar album great.

Review by Matthew Warnock
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

Artist: Alan Rinehart
Album: The Golden Century: Lute Music From 16th Century Italy

Alan Rinehart is a performer, teacher, and editor based in Nelson, British Columbia who has earned international acclaim for his guitar and lute work since his London debut in 1980. Rinehart studied lute at the Early Music Center in London with Anthony Rooley, Jakob Lindberg and Emma Kirby, and went on to found The Vancouver Guitar Quartet. As a soloist, Rinehart has released three albums, the most recent of which is The Golden Century: Lute Music From 16th Century Italy. On The Golden Century, Rinehart takes listeners through the music of three generations of Italian composers, tracing lute music through as it developed from dance, polyphonic and popular roots.

Rinehart is a teacher even in performance. Reading his press materials and listening to The Golden Century, it’s evident that he is ultimately knowledgeable of his art, and thoroughly in love with the music he plays. Each note is carefully, lovingly crafted, with a clean and distinct style of play that speaks of impeccable technique. Rinehart offers 31 lute pieces on traditional guitar in hopes of opening up the art form to greater interest. Rinehart opens with four studies by Francesco Spinacino. The fourth, “Recercar de tutti Il Toni” makes bold tonal explorations that show Rinehart’s ultimately graceful technique. Rinehart dances his way lightly through five short pieces from Joanambrosio Dalza. One of the highlights of the album comes next. Rinehart recreates Vincenzo Capirola’s “Et In Terra Paz Homnibus,” itself a recreation of Josquin de Pres’ vocal work of the same name. Rinehart gives �voice’ to the pieces as well as many vocalists you might think of.

Next, he takes on six Fantasias from Francesco Canova (da Milano). To varying degrees, Canova’s Fantasias have a highly pensive feel that breathes forth from Rinehart’s recordings. Once again, the technique here is flawless, and Rinehart plays with not only technical perfection, but with an emotive style that is unmistakable. He takes a side trip with “Fantasia” by Alberto da Ripa, showing off a contrapuntal harmony style that would be challenging to even the most practiced guitarist. Somehow Rinehart makes it all sound easy.

Vincenzo Gallilei’s “Chiari, fresche e dolci acque” takes a vocal composition from Jaques Arcadelt and turns it into a mellow, ambling piece full of beauty. Rinehart offers up the piece in tones of reverence, eliciting each note and phrase with fervent solemnity. Next come four pieces from Giulio Cesare Barbetta in Spanish style. Three “Moresca’s” (Moorish dances) and “Passamezzo Detto Il Commune (in 4 variations)” show off a dance-oriented feel that was ahead of its time when written. Rinehart plays each with a light touch that is appropriate, allowing the pieces themselves to speak.

Rinehart offers some of his best fret work on the anonymous “Ricercar (Siena lute MS 1585),” a piece with a mischievous melody and complex structure. This piece would have been progressive for its time, and Rinehart plays it with appropriate energy and zest. Rinehart then communes with Giovanni Antonio Terzi, moving into a more traditional baroque sound with the use of madrigals and chansons. “Alemano” in particular shows him at his best, working from resolution to resolution with a sense of embellishment that is keenly refined. While Rinehart didn’t write the lines he plays, you’d nearly think he did. The album closes with “Fantasia Quinta” by Simone Molinaro. A contemporary of Giovanni Palestrina,” Molinaro’s complex and textured piece receives a loving air from Rinehart, building in intensity and energy and displaying consummate technique and grace.

Alan Rinehart plays music from the 16th century as he might have once lived through that time, with a conviction and passion that comes only from close association. You can almost close your eyes and picture yourself in 16th century Florence with The Renaissance exploding around you. Alan Rinehart’s The Golden Century: Lute Music From 16th Century Italy is transformative. It’s the sort of performance that can change your musical perspective, opening your mind up to new sounds and styles you may never have otherwise considered. Rinehart’s work is a thing of beauty.

Review by Wildy Haskell
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

I had the joy of meeting Alan Rinehart two years back at the Northwest Guitar Festival in my hometown, Nelson, B.C. Alan put on a great little festival that was very successful and well organized. Those who have met Alan will agree he is great contact and a wonderful contribution to the Canadian guitar scene.

r. Rinehart’s new recording “The Golden Century” is comprised of selections from Italian lute music of the 16th century. Composers include: Francesco Spinacino, Joanambrosio Dalza, Vincenzo Capirola, Francesco Canova da Milano, Pietro Paulo Borrono, Alberto da Ripa, Vincenzo Galilei, Giulio Cesare Barbetta, Giovanni Antonio Terzi, Simone Molinaro.

The recording has some spectacular repertoire including one of my favorite composers Francesco da Milano. Some of my highlights of this recording are the Piva by Joanambrosio Dalza which displays a very spirited but natural feeling dance nicely handled by Rinehart. Also a personal favorite is the Fantasia 33 (Ness) by da Milano.

Some unexpected repertoire that I haven’t heard before were the works by Pietro Paulo Borrono which I’ll have to track down as they are excellent. The wealth of repertoire from this time period, really the golden age for plucked instruments, never ceases to amaze me in it variety and sheer quantity. Congrats to Mr. Rinehart for recording it. Much of the material has been recorded on obscure lute recordings but has been very neglected by guitarists.

Another gem was the Alberto da Ripa (c. 1500�1551) fantasia. I didn’t know much about him but there was a wiki on him stating “the court of Francis I. held him in great esteem , as his annual salary was double that of any other lutenist, and he also frequently received gifts of land, money, wine, etc., and various other benefits.” Those were the days folks!

Alan Rinehart has produced an album filled with well-known masterpieces and a few unknown gems as well. His musicality is mature and he always sounds comfortable and natural making the album a joy to listen to. The performance of lute music is always filled with choices, particularly in regards to tone and attack. Mr. Rinehart’s sound is round and sweet but also plucky enough at times to give the music a clarity that is important to maintaining the counterpoint.

Bradford Werner