Jacob Heringman plays music from the Siena Lute Book -
'... an infectious zest for the music ...'
'Orpheus with his lute made trees' is not quite so startlingly creative as may seem
at first sight; Shakespeare continues 'Bow themselves when he did sing'. But from most
ancient times, when lutes cheered the banquets of noble Egyptians beneath the Theban
hills, the instrument attained special significance. If a musical god such as Apollo
needed something to strum on, as often as not it would be a lute, even if the Greeks
confounded matters by using the same word for lute and lyre.
By sixteenth century Siena, the lute was thoroughly established in Italy. Sienese
music-making had a firm footing in the resplendent Cathedral and in the Palazzo Pubblico
with its guild of trumpeters. In the following century came the horse-racing Palio with
its traditional songs; but circa 1590 was compiled the 'Siena Lute Book'. Now relocated
at the Hague, the collection is remarkable for accurate copying, the range of music
featuring the most skilled lutenist-composers of the time, chanson or motet intabulations,
and anonymous contemporary dances.
Copyright © 2 January 2005
Robert Anderson, London UK