the several virtues exhibited by this anthology, intelligent
and thoughtful programming ranks high.
the liner-notes Hopkinson Smith refers to the anthology as a
passage through time, criss-crossing from the Baroque back to
the Renaissance and to the Baroque again. This is also true
of the performances per se which were made over a period
of more than twenty years.
the less dedicated listener, twenty-one tracks of Renaissance
and Baroque music for lute and allied instruments has
a propensity for sameness and ennui. To add variety, contrast
and engender greater interest, Hopkinson Smith has not only
chosen programme items carefully but employed some other interesting
innovations: two differently strung Baroque lutes,
three different Renaissance lutes, a vihuela, and a Baroque
guitar are used. This combination produces some interesting
and welcomed contrasts: Canarios by Fransisco Guerau (18) is played on a Baroque guitar while the following
track, Le Cascade by Le Vieux Gaultier,
is played on an eleven-course Baroque lute.
review disc comprises solo performances with the exception of
another delightful contrast: Largo from Bernhard Joachim Hagen’s concerto in A
major (12) for lute, two violins, viola and cello.
Hopkinson Smith is universally acknowledged
as one of the finest lute and allied instrument players. Born
in 1946 he graduated from Harvard with honours in music in 1972.
The next year he went to Europe to study with Emilio Pujol in Catalonia and Eugen
Dombois in Switzerland. He subsequently became involved in numerous chamber music projects
including the foundation of the ensemble Hespérion
XX. This ten-year collaboration in collective music-making complemented
his career as a soloist.
playing is very enjoyable and of the highest standard. In the
year 2000 Hopkinson Smith released a recording of his lute arrangements
of the J.S. Bach Partitas and Sonatas for solo violin.
The Gramophone magazine nominated this recording as ‘
the best recording of these works on any instrument.’
the review disc presents three tracks from Bach’s works for
solo violin: Tempo di Borrea
from BWV 1002 (1); Adagio from Sonata I, BWV 1001(15) and
the last track (21), Prelude from the Partita III, BWV 1006.
I am not familiar with the aforementioned recording, but based
on the review disc, cannot be so definitive
as The Gramophone. Well played as these pieces are, one
is pressed to place the renditions above original versions played
on the violin by such fine players as John Holloway (ECM New
Series 1909/10 476 3152). While a number of excellent recorded
renditions of these works on violin existed in 2000, Holloway’s
version is a more recent addition to the catalogue.
review disc is the most enjoyable and entertaining recording
of music for lute and allied instruments that I have yet encountered.