Jacob Heringman is an American lutenist living in England since 1987. Though perhaps best known for his recitals and recordings of Medieval and Renaissance lute music, Heringman maintains an active international career as a continuo player, performing with The King's Consort, The English Baroque Soloists, The Parley of Instruments, and the Tavener Consort among others. There is a certain quality to the lute that puts one in a time capsule but at the same time it doesn't sound at all out of place today. The works of Hungarian born Bálint Bakfark, and German composer, Matthäus Waissel are every bit as fresh and original today as they was when they were written in the sixteenth century. Jacob Heringman's career spans an era of considerable experimentation and transition in musical style, lute construction and playing technique.
The classic diminution style (running passages) of the Renaissance was gradually
combined with the new practice of "style brise" or breaking chords. The lowest register of the lute was also increasingly explored, and more bass strings were added. These pieces were written for a six-course lute (six pairs of strings), the instrument Heringman undoubtedly learned to play on, with the lowest three pairs of strings tuned in octaves. Today, Bálint Bakfark's music is nearly always played on a seven- or eight course instrument with the basses tuned in unison. To the casual listener, such questions of stringing may seem esoteric, but they are a vital part of the music's character.
Heringman takes little credit for his own success as a lutenist, concluding that the lute's small but faithful following is simply due to both the complicated and sincere nature of its sound. In the Renaissance people didn't have to choose sides as is so often the case today. Music was simply music and people loved music that was complex and difficult to understand as well as music that was immediate, music that they could understand at first hearing. The lute created music that struck a responsive chord right away.
The nine works on this volume span 56 minutes, which seems to pass all to quickly while listening. Heringman's playing combines elegance of articulation with an imaginative flair that blows the scholarly dust off these pieces. The performances are first rate, robustly intoned and warmly phrased. He instills the music with a real elegance and grace.
Review by Ben Kettlewell
Alternate Music Press