Arts & Events

Wonderful Recordings of Lute Music

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Monday August 27, 2018 - 02:22:00 PM

During the 2018 Berkeley Early Music Festival & Exhibition in June, I took time to visit the Exhibition, where rare and unusual instruments were on display and available for musicians to try them out. While at the Exhibition, I was offered four compact discs of music for lute, all produced by Gamut Music. I was asked by the people from Gamut Music if I would review these discs. I replied that I’d be happy to review them but couldn’t promise when I’d have the time to do so. Well, now in the last days of August I am delighted to fulfill my promise.  

For lovers of lute music, these recordings are outstanding. The first CD I chose to listen to was entitled Canto y Danza, performed by Chambure Vihuela Quartet with Carrie Henneman Shaw. The vihuela, similar to a modern lute, developed out of waisted fiddles of the Middle Ages. In fifteenth century Spain, vihuelas (both bowed and plucked) were the favored string instrument of the Spanish nobility and high bourgeoisie. Today’s revival of the vihuela comes as a sideline of the renewed interest in music for the lute. The Chambure Vihuela Quartet performs on four vihuelas of differing sizes and tunings. Soprano Carrie Henneman Shaw is featured as vocalist on many of this CD’s pieces. The music is lively and gracious; and the recording is of outstanding technical quality. 

Indeed, in all four CDs by Gamut Music the technical quality of the recordings is remarkable for its clarity and immediacy. In a CD entitled Orynthology featuring the Venere Lute Quartet, music written by William Byrd, Thomas Tallis, Alfonso Ferrabosco, Thomas Morely, and John Dowland is heard. In a CD entitled Courante, 

French Baroque Lute Duets are performed by Edward Martin and Thomas Walker. The fourth CD is entitled Psyché and features 17th & 18th century lute music by French composers Ennemond “le Vieux” Gaultier, Jacques Gallot, and Robert le Visée, as well as pieces by German composer Sylvius Leopold Weiss. All four of these CDs are highly recommended for lovers of the lute (and the vihuela).