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CD-16275 -
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AYUMI – German music for two baroque lutes


Lute duets have a long history. They are already found in the books with lute music by Spinacino (1507) and Dalza (1508). Francesco da Milano (1497–1543) composed a canon and variations on La Spagna for two lutes. During the 16th century, a great number of duet pieces were composed in Spain, the Low Countries and Germany. Especially in England, this century can be called the golden age of lute duets, and quite a few duet pieces were composed by Dowland and his contemporaries. All of these duets were played on lutes in renaissance tuning.

In the 17th century the baroque lute in French tuning appeared. Among the earliest duet pieces for this instrument, there is one that is based on a solo piece by Ennemond Gaultier (1575–1651). The second part is added to this by an unknown hand. Hardly any other duet pieces were written in this century. Lute duets revived to a certain degree in the 18th century, and quite a number of pieces were composed by Weiss, Telemann, Baron and many other less famous or anonymous composers. But only a small number of these duets are fit to add to our repertoire since some lost a part, others contain numerous writing mistakes, and the quality of the pieces is not necessarily high.

The first work on this CD is Suite in d-moll by Sylvius Leopold Weiss (1686–1750). It is from a manuscript in the British Museum. This suite consists of six movements: Prelude, Un poco Andante, La Badinage, Le Sicilien, Menuet and Gigue. The Prelude is not played in this CD. Unlike most of the suites of Weiss at this period, this suite lacks Allemande, Courant and Saraband. Since the signature ‘Weiss 1719’ appears only in Prelude, La Badinage and Le Sicilien, this might be just a gathering of pieces, rather than a suite. In the Menuet, one of the identical measures 35 and 36 was omitted because the total number of measures should be even, considering the steps of the dance.

At first sight, this suite may be regarded as a solo work. But the following facts suggest that the five movements (except Prelude) might be duet pieces. Firstly, every movement has some measures without much of a melody. Secondly, measure 33 in the Menuet is a one-measure rest. And thirdly, each half of Le Sicilien begins with an upbeat quaver rest, which would be unnecessary in a solo piece. Incidentally, in the 18th century the sicilien replaced the 17th century tombeau, so a sicilien was often a slow and sombre piece. Although the presence of the Prelude at the beginning hinders the confirmation that this suite was for two lutes, I added a second part to the five consecutive movements, being convinced that they are better to be played as such. Actually this was already done by the French lutenist Pascale Boquet in 1982. With this in mind, I worked on the arrangement.

The second work, Concerto in B-Dur by Corigniani, consists of four movements: Introduzzione, Adagio, Allegretto, and Allabreve. The manuscript of this concerto is now kept in Brussels in Belgium. Concerning the composer, no document is found. It is most likely that Corigniani was a pen name of some German composer, as I will mention later relating to Telemann. The reason is that there are no solo lute pieces left with this name and it is hard to regard this work as a composition by a lutenist. A lutenist would have used higher positions. In the Breitkopf catalogue of 1761 are two sonatas for lute duet by Corigniani, but it is not clear whether one of them is this concerto.

The second lute part of Introduzzione and Adagio is written to compensate the first part. Allegretto and Allabreve are contrapuntal pieces, and both lutes are treated equally. Originally, a bass part for cello or violone was added to this concerto. It is omitted in this performance, considering the fact that the bass is already doubled by the two lutes. After a minute comparison of the lute parts with the bass part, missing notes of the bass were added to the lute parts, which made the performance only a trifle more difficult. Although in a low register and therefore not so brilliant, this is still a very graceful concerto.

Next comes Duetto in G-Dur by Sylvius Leopold Weiss. It is from the manuscript kept in Moscow: Requeul de divers Pieces A Sonates Pour le Luth Composés par Mr Weiss a Dresde. The two parts are divided equally, since it is not a dance with just melody and bass. It is likely that this manuscript came to Russia with the Russian ambassador Count Hermann von Kayserlingk, who was familiar with music and a patron of Weiss. Weiss wrote numerous duet pieces, but for most of them one part is missing.

Lastly three movements of Partie Polonoise in B by Georg Philipp Telemann (1681–1767) are played: Harlequinade, Le Ris and Combattans. On the title page of the manuscript at Warsaw in Poland is written ‘PARTIE POLONOISE en B / ij Traituite de C / A Deux Luths Pour Le Premiere / Faite à 2 violes et La Basse / Par L’ Autheur Msr Melante’. Melante was one of Telemann’s pen names like Tallman and Dallman. If the letters in Melante are arranged differently, they form ‘Teleman’. Judging from the style, there’s a high possibility that they were indeed composed for the viola da gamba. Out of the six movements, three were chosen which seemed most adaptable to the lute. Still they are not so suitable for the lute because of the low register, as I explained above with regard to Corigniani. Anyway they are jolly pieces.

Baroque lute duets have not been recorded so frequently. It is because of the modern strings: metal wound strings with a nylon core. The bass strings of this material have such a long sustain that even on one lute they sound like bees driven out of their hive. Two lutes make it even worse. Baroque lute duets make no sense without gut strings. For this recording only plain gut strings were used, with a density not changed by added metal or other materials.

Toyohiko Satoh, 2008

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