Francis Cutting (c1550 - 1596)

English lutenist and composer. The little we know of his life is summarised in Burgers (2002) (whose book undoubtedly gives the most complete account available of Cutting and his music). Cutting was probably born around 1550. He had a son,Thomas*, who was a professional lutenist, but Francis may well have been a gentleman of means and an amateur lutenist. In contrast to most of the lutenists of this period he was not employed at court or in one of the houses of the nobility, though he may well have worked for the Duke of Arundel. Nevertheless his music is of a quality that matches the work of his professional colleagues and his surviving output of 50 or so solo pieces (found in both manuscript and printed sources) is exceeded only by Dowland, Bacheler and Holborne.

The majority of Cutting’s works are written for 6 - course lute, though some (including the majority of his pavans) are for 7 - course lute; there is one lute duet and a couple of bandora solos. His output mostly consists of pavans and galliards together with a few almains and variations on ballad tunes and one or two jigs, toys etc.

Surprisingly few of his works appear to have been transcribed and arranged for guitar solo, and on this page I hope to gradually expand the number of his pieces available to guitarists. The arrangements are in guitar (rather than lute) tuning, some with dropped D. The numbering follows Burgers.

Mrs Anne Markham’s Pavan B01 [PDF] [MIDI] [XML] Grade 07
Judging by the number of sources in which it is found this was one of Cutting’s most popular works. Its tonal scheme somewhat resembles Dowland’s Lachrimae; the third section has some very striking passing discords.

Galliard B02 [PDF] [MIDI] [XML] Grade 06
In one source this galliard is found after B01; it has the same tonal scheme, so it seems reasonable to regard it as Mrs Anne Markham’s Galliard. If this piece is played in guitar tuning there are one or two places where it is difficult to give treble notes their full implied value (eg bars 5 and 13) nevertheless (in my view) the piece sounds effective. The alternative, therefore, is to retune the G string to F sharp and use lute tuning.

Pavan B03 [PDF] [MIDI] [XML] Grade 08

Galliard B08 [PDF] [MIDI] [XML] Grade 08

Pavan B09 [PDF] [MIDI] [XML] Grade 08

Pavan Sans Per B13 [PDF] [MIDI] [XML] Grade 08
The title of this piece is a bit of a mystery -
Burgers suggests it might translate into modern English as Peerless (i.e. unequalled) Pavan. The piece was written for 7-course lute.

Groninge Pavan B18 [PDF] [MIDI] [XML] Grade 08
Another pavan given a strange name in one of its two sources (Dd.9.33). Might it signify ‘groaning’? More likely, as explained by
Burgers it refers to the northern Dutch town of Groningen. The town was besieged (successfully) by the British in 1594 and one of the officers who took part was Sir Griffith Markham, the husband of the dedicatee of pavan B01 which is also found in Dd.9.33.

Galliard B22 [PDF] [MIDI] [XML] Grade 05
Unlike other works by Cutting this galliard does often appear in guitar collections, though occasionally misattributed (to Dowland or Thomas Cutting). It is an attractive piece and more straightforward to play that some of Cutting’s works.

Galliard B23 [PDF] [MIDI] [XML] Grade 06

Galliard B27 [PDF] [MIDI] [XML] Grade 05

Galliard B32 [PDF] [MIDI] [XML] Grade 07

Galliard B33 [PDF] [MIDI] [XML] Grade 07 For this galliard Cutting has taken a short galliard by Dowland (Poulton 24) and added divisions.

Galliard B34 [PDF] [MIDI] [XML] Grade 06

Sir Walter Raleigh’s Galliard B35 [PDF] [MIDI] [XML] Grade 05
This galliard is dedicated to the poet, scholar and explorer, Sir Walter Raleigh (1554-1618). It is found in several different sources and attributed both to Cutting and to another lutenist, Richard Allison.
Burgers discusses this in more detail.

Galliard B36 [PDF] [MIDI] [XML] Grade 07
In the one source for this galliard both Cutting’s and Dowland’s names appear.
Burgers suggests the original statement of the piece may be by Dowland and the varied repeats by Cutting.

Almaine B39 [PDF] [MIDI] [XML] Grade 07

My Lord Willoughby’s Welcome Home B46 [PDF] [MIDI] [XML] Grade 07
Burgers suggests that Cutting used Dowland’s version of this popular tune as the basis for his set of variations.

Lachrimae Pavan B51 [PDF] [MIDI] [XML] Grade 06
Lachrimae was, of course, one of John Dowland’s most popular pieces; it is found as a lute song,
Flow my Tears, as a set of pieces for viol consort with lute accompaniment Lachrimae, or Seven Teares and in numerous versions (in English and continental manuscripts) as a lute solo. However at least one lute scholar doubts whether Dowland was responsible for any of these lute solos (Tayler 2005). This lute version is attributed to Cutting on the basis that he was likely the music editor of A New Book of Tabliture in which it appears. Dowland seemingly did not approve of this version, as he complained in 1597 that his lute pieces had been "lately printed without my knowledge, false and unperfect” (Poulton 1982, p48) and it is likely that Cutting was the object of his displeasure. Other versions of Lachrimae can be found here, here and here.

Quadro Pavan B52 [PDF] [MIDI] [XML] Grade 06
The Quadro Pavan is a set of variations on the Italian
Passamezzo moderno ground bass. According to Burgers settings of this and other Italian ground basses seem to have been very popular in English lute music of the 1570s and 1580s. This setting, found in the Dallis Lute Book, is given the attribution FC in the manuscript and the evidence seems to point to Cutting as the composer though stylistically it is closer to John Johnson’s settings of the piece than to Cutting’s other known pieces.** I find it the nicest of the versions of the Quadro Pavan I have come across to play on the guitar.

The Woods so Wild B55 [PDF] [MIDI] [XML] Grade 09
This piece is found in the
Euing Lute Book and is a very skilful transcription of a set of variations on a popular tune by William Byrd. The lute version is generally thought to be by Francis Cutting, though Dowland clearly knew the piece as the third section of his Earl of Essex galliard (Can She Excuse My Wrongs?) appears to quote the tune. It is one of my favourite pieces, so I have arranged it despite the fact that there are at least two good guitar arrangements already, one in normal guitar tuning (North 1976) and the other in lute tuning (Dausend 1996). As is often done with guitar arrangements I have simplified the notation by rendering it mostly in two voices when in fact the piece effectively has three voices throughout - so the player need to use judgement about allowing notes to sound. My arrangement has some minor differences from North and Dausend’s arrangements, notably in Bar 53 where both arrangements seem to differ from the tablature transcriptions of the source in Burgers (2002) and North 1973.

Galliard B56 [PDF] [MIDI] [XML] Grade 04
This galliard (which unlike Cutting’s other galliards has no varied repeats) was written for the 7-course bandora and would therefore be easier to play on a 7-string guitar with the bass strings tuned to D and G. However it is reasonably straightforward to play on the 6-string guitar and easier than most of the lute galliards.


*Cutting had a number of children in addition to his musician son Thomas. The modern day American folk musician Jennifer Cutting apparently traces her ancestry to him (see Sweers, 2004) via a number of other musicians among her forebears. (Whether the wonderful English melodeon player Andy Cutting has the same distinction I do not know!)

** I describe some of the pitfalls inherent in trying to determine the authorship of pieces found in English lute manuscripts in the essay reproduced here.

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