the classical violin or cello and everyone knows exactly what
you mean. Some of the very best instruments played by today’s
concert artists were made three hundred years ago and fundamentally
the design perfected by such master-makers as Stradivari and
Guarneri has changed little during that period.
it comes to the classical guitar you have to be a little more
specific. If you mean the one that Andrès Segovia played,
it has six strings and remains the most popular design. You
may mean the version played by Mason Fish that has seven strings
with an extra bass string tuned to B flat. Paul Galbraith
plays an eight-string guitar and Narciso Yepes (1927-1997)
made the ten-string guitar famous during his lifetime.
guitar played on the review disc by Göran Söllscher is an
eleven-stringed instrument made by Swedish luthier Georg Bolin.
This is an alto guitar with the six highest strings tuned
like a Renaissance lute and the five bass strings tuned diatonically.
These innovations facilitate access to a huge repertoire from
the 16th to 18th centuries; it is from
this music that the present programme was taken.
playing is characterised by great precision, accuracy, and
mastery of the music. His repertory ranges from the Beatles
(DG 447 104-2 and DG 459 692-2) to Alonso Mudarra (1510-1580).
programme ranges over eleven different players and composers
of music for the lute and vihuela from 1510-1630. They represent
some of the greatest exponents of that period.
the 16th century the Italian lutenists and their
music had powerful influence on the rest of Europe.
Franceso da Milano “il divino” was the best known and most
important of them all. Contemporaries documented his great
improvising capacity and profound effect on audiences. “Intavolatura
di liuto” by Simone Molinaro was published in 1599 and marked
the end of a glorious century of Italian lute music.
Schlick and Hans Neusidler represent the German School of lutenists
and composers of lute music from the first decade of the 16th
Mudarra, Luys Milán and Luys de Narváez were the foremost
Spanish vihuelists of the 16th century. Very little
of their music is found in manuscript form, the favoured publication
format of the period being tablature.
only French lutenist represented in this programme is Robert
Ballard. It was not until the 17th century that
French lutenists achieved significant European influence.
“golden age” of English lute music spanned the period 1580-1610
and yielded some superb music. Although no evidence exists
to conclusively prove he was a composer of lute music, Peter
Philips’ works are believed to have been transcribed for that
instrument. Antony Holborne was both a lutenist and a composer
of lute music. John Dowland was the most outstanding player/composer
of the Elizabethan period and probably the whole of the Renaissance.
individually or severally, any of the 34 tracks would represent
enjoyable listening. Played consecutively there is a propensity
for the music to become a little bland. While thematically
apposite, the programme’s resultant blandness is, to some
degree, compensated by careful sequencing of tempi and the
very lively “attack” with which Söllscher plays several of
the most favoured exponent of music from this era is Julian
Bream and whether he plays the music on lute, vihuela or standard
six-stringed guitar, the results are equally outstanding.
To supplant his performances requires more than Söllscher
manages on this recording.
Segovia was always sceptical, and often critical, about the
practice of adding additional strings to the standard guitar.
Listening to several pieces on this recording (e.g. Mudarra,
“Fantasia que contrahaze la harpa en la manera de Ludovico”
(1), de Narvaez, “Quatro differencias sobre Guardame las vacas”
(26)) and comparing them with renditions of similar standard
on a conventional six-stringed instrument, it is easy to understand
his point of view because little, if anything, is added.
balance the most fascinating track on this album is Dowland’s
“My Lord Chamberlain his Galliard.” (34) which Dowland wrote
for duet to be played on a single lute. This recording exploits
the virtues of the alto guitar. Regarding this particular
composition, the accompanying notes comment thus: the visual
effect of this work, possibly designed to be played by a seated
woman with a man standing behind and embracing her in order
to be able to execute the second part, must have been
the playing on the review disc does not disappoint and exhibits
those aforementioned attributes that have made Göran Söllscher
one of the most admired and respected guitarists of his generation.
Maximum enjoyment from this new release will go to those with
a strong penchant for music of the period; others may find
a sense of “sameness” pervading the recording. That is one
observation which could never be made of his recording, also
on the same guitar, of the four Lute Suites by J.S. Bach,
DG 445 563-2. This is one of the very best guitar recordings
of these works.
eclectic programme to be found on Söllscher’s “preludes ·
songs · homages” DG 459 1382, makes that a disc with a much
wider draw, and his recording of Schubert with Gil Shaham,
DG 471 5682, is magic.
new disc presents enjoyable, first-class guitar playing but
the programme has narrower audience-appeal than some of Göran
Söllscher’s earlier recordings.