Solo Music

This is the most extensive section of the website. Much of the music I have arranged is English (and Scottish) renaissance music from the ‘Golden Age’ of lute music in this country associated with the popularity of the instrument at the English and Scottish royal courts and among the nobilty. The height of this popularity was between (approximately) 1540 and 1650 - especially during the reigns of Henry VIII (1509 - 1547), Edward VI (1547 - 1553), Mary Tudor (1553 - 1558) and Elizabeth I (1558 - 1603) in England; and the reigns of James V (1513 - 1542), Mary Stewart (1543 - 1567) and James VI (1567 - 1625) in Scotland - continuing to some extent in James VI’s subsequent reign as James I of England (1603 - 1625). Music printing came late to the British Isles, and nearly all of this music is to be found in manuscript sources of which there are 50 or so that survive to the present day containing 2 - 3,000 separate pieces. Much of the music in these sources is unattributed and there are many pieces where the attribution to a particular composer is unclear, but there seem to have have been about 10 musicians responsible for the bulk of the pieces with known composers and a long list of lesser names responsible for a few pieces. (I have written on this topic in an essay entitled Attribution in Golden Age English Lute Music.)

The ‘golden age’ tradition continued during the first part of the seventeenth century, though lute music in England became increasingly influenced by French styles and there was also a gradual decline in the popularity of the instrument. Nevertheless there is a considerable amount of interesting seventeenth century English lute music to be found and I hope to be able to arrange more of this. Currently the later golden age English style is represented here by Cuthbert Hely and John Wilson.

I have also arranged a number of pieces from continental sources. Many of these are later than the English pieces. There are early sources from all over Europe but with progression towards Baroque styles in the seventeenth century France and Germany became the main centres of innovation in lute music, with the popularity of the lute persisting in Germany well into the eighteenth century.

The seventeenth century is marked by the transition in lute tuning from renaissance tuning (viel ton) through a number of transitional tunings to baroque tuning, later lutes usually having more bass courses (so that Sylvius Weiss, the last of the great German lutenists, used instruments with as many as 13 courses). Pieces written in baroque tuning for these larger instruments often pose a considerable challenge to the arranger!

There is a fascinating and very detailed account of the history of the lute in Great Britain in Spring (2001), and a beautiful illustrated account of the lute in Europe in Schlegel (2006).

I have also included, throughout this site, music originally written for some other instruments including the harpsichord and the lyra viol.

I have had requests to grade the pieces by difficulty. For the solo pieces at least I have started adopting a 01 - 10 scale similar to that used on the Delcamp Guitar Forum* This aligns more or less with other gradings such as the 1- 8 grades of the UK Trinity College of Music though, of course, all gradings are pretty subjective and can only be a general guide. 

*which all classical guitarists should join!

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