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Göran Söllscher (alto guitar)
The Renaissance Album
Alonso MUDARRA (c.1510-1580)
Fantasia which imitates the harp in the manner of Ludovico [1:50]; Pavana de Alexandre [0:57]; Gallarda [1:17].
Peter PHILIPS (1560/1-1628)
Chromatic Pavan [3:58];The Galliard to the Chromatic Pavan [1:17].
Francesco da MILANO (1497-1543)
Fantasia in F major [1:02]; Ricercare in G minor [3:05]; Fantasia in C major [0:53]; Fantasia in C minor [0:44]; Fantasia in F major [1:26].
John DOWLAND (1563-1626)
My Lady Hudson’s Allemande [1:23]; A Piece without Title [0:48]; Shoemaker’s Wife: A Toy [1:07]; Mr Dowland’s Midnight [1:30]; Sir John Smith, his Almain [2:23]; Semper Dowland semper dolens [3:40]; Forlorn Hope Fancy [4:10];The Right Honourable Ferdinando, Earl of Derby, his Galliard [2:21]; The Most Sacred Queen Elizabeth, her Galliard [1:15]; A Fantasia [4:07]; My Lord Chamberlain his Galliard [1’56].
Arnolt SCHLICK (c.1460-after1521)
He who (spoils) Grace by gossip [1’14]
Hans NEUSIDLER (c.1508/9-1563)
An Italian dance:The Queen’s Dance [0:58]; Ach Elselein [1:42]; In Love’s Ardour[0:54]; An Italian dance with after-dance [1:31].
Simone MOLINARO (c.1570-after 1633)
Saltarello del predetto ballo [2:16]
Luys MILÁN (c.1500-after 1560)
Fantasia of chords and scale passages [2:00]; Pavana V and VI [2:02].
Luys de NARVÁEZ (fl.1526-49)
The Song of the Emperor [2:46]; Four variations on-“Guárdame las vacas.”[1:14]
Antony HOLBORNE (c.1545-1602)
Hartes Ease [0:54]; The Fairy Round [1:27]
Robert BALLARD (c.1575-after 1649)
Village Dances [4:26]
Göran Söllscher, 11-string alto guitar.
rec. Mol (Belgium), Galaxy Studios, 5/2005
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 00289 477 5726 [64:09]

 

 

Mention 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.

When 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.

The 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.

Söllscher’s 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).

The 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.

During 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.

Arnolt Schlick and Hans Neusidler represent the German School of lutenists and composers of lute music from the first decade of the 16th century.

Alonso 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.

The only French lutenist represented in this programme is Robert Ballard. It was not until the 17th century that French lutenists achieved significant European influence.

The “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.

Taken 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 pieces.

Probably 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.

Andrès 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.

On 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 quite remarkable.

Characteristically 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.

The 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.

This new disc presents enjoyable, first-class guitar playing but the programme has narrower audience-appeal than some of Göran Söllscher’s earlier recordings.

Zane Turner

 


 



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