Naxos has collected its four volume traversal of the lute music into a handy slipcase. All the volumes are available singly, but you can also buy the four together as a quartet of excellence, presided over by Nigel North, the acknowledged hero of the hour. What follows is a reprise of two volumes already reviewed - volumes 1 and 3 - and a look at volumes 2 and 4.
Unlike most of the music in the fabulous "ut pictura musica" series from France's Alpha label, that presented here is something of a speculative reconstruction. As one section of the complex booklet (in French and English) explains, English ensemble instrumental music of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries might be played by either a "whole" (homogeneous) or "broken" (diverse) consort.
One of those special discs where the combination of repertoire and performances is of such unerring quality that it can justly be called definitive, Paul O'Dette's 1991 recital of lute works by Johannes Hieronymus Kapsberger is as good as it gets. Born in Venice, Kapsberger was unsurpassed in his times as a lutenist. His published collections of works for his instrument were considered all but unplayable by anyone but himself at the time they were first published./quote]
Francesco Canona or Canova was born near Milan in 1497 and died in 1543. It was his place of birth rather than his family name which was almost exclusively used when referring to him during his professional life. He was the personal lutenist in Rome to Cardinal Ippolito de Medici and to Popes Leo X (1513-1521), Clement VII (1523-34), and Paul III (1534-1549). Francesco’s first printed works date from 1536. In that year, three publications appeared, two of which were devoted only to works by Francesco. The third was an anthology in which his music can be found alongside anonymous dances and pieces by his contemporaries.
The American lutenist, Hopkinson Smith, began as a teenager he began to study the classical guitar and in his early 20's, he became acquainted with the lute which he started to learn by himself. He majored in musicology at Harvard and graduated with honors in 1972. In 1973, Hopkinson Smith came to Europe to devote himself to the lute in earnest. He worked in Catalonia with Emilio Pujol, a profound pedagogue in the 19th century tradition who instilled in him a sense for higher artistic values, and in Switzerland with Eugen Dombois whose sense of happy organic unity between performer, instrument and historic period has had a lasting effect on him. From the mid 1970's, he was involved in various ensemble projects including the founding of the ensemble Hespèrion XX and a ten-year collaboration with Jordi Savall. This collaboration led to important experiences in chamber music which were a creative complement to his work as a soloist.