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Travels with my Lute
Luis MILAN (c.1500–after 1561)
Fantasia; Pavana
Alonso MUDARRA (c.1508–1580)
Luys DE NARVAEZ (c.1500–after 1550)
Mille regrez; Un baxa de contrapuncto
Antonio DE CABEZON (1510–1566)
Francesco SPINACINO (?–after 1507)
Francesco DE MILANO (1497–1543)
2 Ricercari
Simone MOLINARO (c. 1567–c. 1615)
Fantasia XV; Fantasi I
John DOWLAND (1562–1626)
What if a day; The Right Honorable Earl of Essex his Galliard; Fantasia
William BRADE (1570–1630)
Des Rotschencken Tantz
Johannes Hieronymus KAPSBERGER (c. 1575–c. 1661)
Toccata VI; Gagliarda III
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685–1750)
Preludium; Gavotte en Rondeau
Silvius Leopold WEISS (1686–1750)
Carl Friedrich ABEL (1723–1787)
Norbert BURGMULLER (1810–1836)
La Chevaleresque
Claude DEBUSSY (1862–1918)
La fille au Cheveux de lin
Arr. Sven BERGER (b.1938)
Sa Som stjarnan; Springlat fran Lima
Gaspar SANZ (1640–1710) / Santiago DE MURZIA (late 17th century)
Ryosuke Sakamoto (Renaissance lute)
rec. 10–13 August 2005, Dala-Jarna Church, Dalarna

Ryosuke Sakamote is a young Japanese lute virtuoso who seems to have been something of a child prodigy; he does not graduate from Tokyo University until 2007. He comes from a musical background and from 1994 (when not yet eleven) he played in the Sakamoto Family Consort. In addition to tuition from his father, Ban Sakamoto, he has studied with Hopkinson Smith, Jakob Lindberg and Paul Odette. Sakamoto is more than simply a lute player and has also studied the viol, including playing in master-classes with Wieland Kuijken.
This disc is something of a showpiece for Sakamoto's talents. Under the guise of a travelogue, he includes a selection of pieces from Spain, Italy, England and Germany. He plays a Renaissance lute, but his repertoire is not restricted to the renaissance but moves through the baroque, 18th and 19th centuries. He concludes with arrangements of a piano piece by Norbert Burgmuller, La Fille au Cheveux du lin by Debussy and some Swedish Folksong arrangements by Sven Berger. The Debussy arrangement, done by Sakamoto himself, is impressive in the way he has captured much of the piece's atmosphere, but you can't help thinking: why bother transcribing a Debussy piano prelude for a Renaissance lute.
The Swedish folksongs indicate an interesting cross-country link up in the disc. Sakamoto spent some of his early years in Sweden when his father worked there. These links seem to have continued; the CD booklet is introduced by one of his father's Swedish colleagues, Sven Berger, who also arranged the folksongs. The disc was also recorded in Sweden.
Sakamoto's selection of pieces encompasses works by major figures from the lute repertoire such as Dowland, Kapsberger, Weiss and Bach. This is an attractive recital and Sakamoto is a talented player. He brings a fine dexterity and warm tone to the pieces. In the livelier ones he has an appealing rhythmic felicity.
What I missed was a sense of fantasy and characterisation. This is particularly shown up by the style of this recital, with the works grouped by country. I would have liked more differentiation in style and flavour between the pieces, more of a reflection of the country of origin.
That is not to say that his playing is not charming, just listen to Dowland's The Right Honorable Robert, Earl of Essex, his Galliard with its variations on Can she excuse my wrongs. But I wanted greater dramatic variation and a sense of fantasy. Perhaps this is also a function of the shortness of the pieces, some 25 pieces on a disc lasting 63 minutes. It takes great experience and depth to bring this off, something that comes with age.
The CD is very focused on Sakamoto himself. He was written the programme notes and the booklet is illustrated with pictures of him, including one as a baby and another as a young boy playing a small viol.
As a debut disc this is most impressive. It shows that he has a strong technique and much promise. I look forward to hearing more from Sakamoto when he matures and develops.
Robert Hugill


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