I think every guitarist should have some experience of Renaissance lute music. It has so much to offer us in musicianship skills and we are very lucky to be able to play the music of such a great composer. John Dowland Solowerke Vol.1: Solos for classical guitar. Universal Edition
One of the most important things to look for when playing music that has been arranged or transcribed is the quality of the edition, for example notes and explanations on sources and performance.
This edition has a short preface covering all the main points; sources, recognition of the main, comprehensive edition of the complete lute music, explanation for the use of F sharp tuning and the suggestion to raise the pitch of the guitar with a capo so imitating the lute more closely and getting more detail from the music.
There are also some facsimile prints to show you what the original lute music would look like. I absolutely love this music, an interest that goes back to falling in love with my guitar teachers lute at the age of 8!
It has so much to offer us in musicianship skills and we are very lucky to be able to play the music of such a great composer.
In this collection you are introduced to the various dance forms used as the basis for many of the compositions in the Renaissance. There are simpler, chordal pieces in Tarletons Riserrectione, My Lord Willoughby's Welcome Home and Round Battle Galliard as well as complex, contrapuntal pieces in The Right Honourable Robert, Earl of Essex, high Marshall of England, his Galliard. Are not the titles fantastic as well, giving you a real sense of history and living music! In the first Galliard we are introduced to imitation between voices and suspensions in inner parts creating wonderful dissonances. This little piece demonstrates how important listening is with this music, that is listening to horizontal lines and phrases rather than just learning through fingering and shapes.
The compositional technique of using Divisions to build a piece is perfectly demonstrated in Sir John Smith his Almaine (this is probably one of my favorite ever pieces by the way). Divisions are when each theme is repeated in a more decorated version so adding to the build up and variety in the piece. John Smiths is lively and strong, with simple, long flowing phrases and a real sense of movement. The Frog Galliard (grade 8) is very similar, without complex counterpoint but with strong rhythm, dance movement and constant development through the piece. Another Renaissance technique was to extend bar lines at cadences, which has the effect of pushing the music towards the conclusion. This happens at the end of each section in The Frog Galliard effectively creating a 3/2 bar from 3/4 bars before each cadence. In this edition the hemiola technique that I have just described is indicated with brackets under the music.
One result of the use of divisions in a piece is some quite extended, quick and virtuosic semiquaver passages to deal with. There are also decorated final chords in several of the pieces which look to have very quick notes but are intended to be played more freely, as a finishing flourish! The idea of suspensions comes out beautifully in The Shoemakers wife and the counterpoint in Lady Rich and The Earl of Essex is stunning.
I think every guitarist should have some experience of Renaissance lute music. There really is something for everyone, from strong driving rhythm to interweaving lines, beautiful dissonance and pure singing melodies. This collection goes from about a grade 4 standard virtuoso pieces that are not out of place on the concert platform. And there is so much more to explore!