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Pieces from the Gdansk Lute Tablature 4022
Magdalena Tomsinska (lute)
rec. 2014, Waterloo, Canada
DUX 1150 [58.15]

This is rare repertoire and with the help of the fascinating documentation and a beautiful, close recording the music, although slight in many ways, comes alive. This is aided by clear, warm and precise playing. We are thus presented with a picture of the type of small-scale musical entertainment popular in 17th century Poland. In so clearly a designed programme as that offered here by Magdalena Tomsinska there can be few criticisms. The results are no doubt enhanced by the performer’s preparation: she has been researching the manuscript for some years.

To put flesh on the bare bones, you will first notice that only a few composers’ names are given below. This is partly to do with the state of the manuscripts which, due to war damage and general wear and tear, are not always in a complete state. Gdansk is the city from which the manuscript originates but the dances are from all over Europe and the collection has a truly international flavour.

It appears that there was a strong English influence. English musicians, for a number of years, worked in Gdansk hence we have pieces like A Parlament of Engellant, which uses the tune Nutmeg and Ginger. Amongst the composers featured is one ‘John Sturt’; I presume ‘Stuart’. The dance called a Duda could well be Hungarian. In addition there is a Balleto Ungaro. Polish Dances are represented by titles like Balleto Polacho. German music is represented in the last tracks with pieces based on Lutheran hymns and an arrangement of a madrigal by Hassler. There are French pieces, for example the Corente - a running dance. The word comes from the French verb. Robert Ballard is the most named composer. He lived about 1575-1650 and was a Parisian lutenist. He tutored King Louis XIII.

The manuscript numbered 4022 is one of several which are either partially in existence or complete in some form or another. It has had quite a chequered history which the notes discuss. It is lucky that it has survived at all.

Magdalena Tomsinka tells us that because some of the pieces are very short she has in some cases added variations and in other cases added opening preludes. You can’t see the join. Examples are the Bergamasca, a popular dance form with a repeated harmonic pattern. There’s also a Spagnoleta. The longest piece, at over seven minutes, is entitled Mon cha which comprises a set of variations on what was actually a French tune called ‘Une jeune fillette’.

Some pieces are ‘sine nomine’ and are recognised as such in the listing although Tomsinska suggests a title and puts the suggestion in brackets.

Tomsinska uses an eight-course lute made in 2000 although she plays some pieces meant for nine and ten course instruments. The latter became more common as the seventeenth century progressed. Indeed the long set of variations and the pieces by Ballard are for such an advanced instrument.

My only surprise and disappointment is that although, as Tomsinska says, she has only recorded “a small portion of this sizeable repertoire” the playing time comes in at less than an hour. Surely a few more pieces, — perhaps some Spanish ones — might have been added.

The essay, as indicated, is clear and useful. There are colour photographs and nice reproductions of sections of the manuscript. It all adds up to a very pleasing presentation that more than aids the musical experience.

Gary Higginson


1. Anonymous: B.P. (Balletto Polacho no. 34 ) f. 31/2
2. Anonymous: B.P. (Balletto Polacho no. 35) f. 31/3
3. Anonymous: B.P. (Balletto Polacho no. 3) f. 20v/1
4. Anonymous: Balletto de florenza f. 13/2 i/and C˙rrente f. 40/2
5. Alessandro Piccinini: Sarabanda f. 5/2
6. Robert Ballard: [Ba]llet [Ba]lardtus ( an arrangement of the air de cour Est ce Mars by GuÚdron) f. 10v/1
7. Robert Ballard: [Coura]nt Bal[lard] f. 8v/1
8. Anonymous: B[alletto]Ungaro f. 42v/2 i/and Ha d˙cken Tanz f. 42v/1
9. Anonymous: Balletto (melodia polska?/ Polish tune?) f. 42v/3
10. Anonymous: Duda f. 46v/1
11. Anonymous: [Preludium] s.n. f. 43/3
12. Anonymous: The Parlament of Engella[n]t (melodia angielska/ English tune Nutmegs and Ginger) f. 44/3
13. Anonymous: (Be merry lub/or Dargason; melodia angielska/ English tune) s.n. f. 41v/2
14. Anonymous: [Corente] s.n. f. 40v/3, s.n. f. 43/2, s.n. f. 40v/3
15. Anonymous: B.P. (Balletto Polacho no. 4) f. 21/4
16. Anonymous: B.P. (Balletto Polacho no. 30) f. 30/3
17. Anonymous: (melodia polska?/ Polish tune?) s.n. f. 30/4
17. Robert Ballard: Balardus (courante) f. 1v/1
18. Robert Ballard: (La princesse, courante) s.n. f. 9v/1
19. Robert Ballard: [Cour]ant Bal[lard] f. 8v/2
20. Anonymous: Bergomasco f. 14/3
Anonymous: Mon cha (wariacje na temat melodii La Monica znanej takze jako Une jeune fillette/ variations on La Monica also known as Une jeune fillette) f. 1v/2
21. Anonymous: [Allemande] s.n. f. 43v/2
22. Anonymous: [Jig] s.n. f. 41/2
Anonymous: s.n. f. 47/2 i/and La Spagnoletta f. 14v/3
23. John Sturt: [B]alletto f. 12v/2
24. Gregory Huwet: [Galliarda] s.n. f. 47/3
25. Anonymous: B.P. (Balletto Polacho no. 18) f. 27v/3
26. Anonymous: B.P. (Balletto Polacho no. 40) f. 32/4
27. Anonymous: J˙ngfraw dein sch÷gestalt erfrewt mich sehr (opracowanie utworu Hansa Leona Hasslera/ an arrangement of the choral piece by Hans Leo Hassler) f. 49/4 i/and f. 24/3
28. Anonymous: Allein Gott in der H÷h se  her (opracowanie hymnu luteranskiego/ an arrangement of the Lutheran hymn) f. 50/3
29. Anonymous: Gott behut dich herchen f. 49v/7


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