DGM is a relatively new company not usually associated with early music. Founded by experimental rock guitarist Robert Fripp, the label aims, amongst other things, "to help music come into the world which would otherwise be unlikely to do so, or under conditions prejudicial to the the music and/or musicians", and also "to be a model of ethical business in an industry founded on exploitation, oiled by deciet, riven with theft and fuelled by greed". I am not sure that early music has been quite so badly served by the recording industry, but Valentin Bakfark and Matthäus Waissel have been largely neglected on disc, and it is encouraging to see a label with such principles encompassing this specialist early repertoire, and providing another point of contact between early music and contemporary popular forums.

There is nothing of the conventionally "popular" in Bakfark’s austere, strictly contrapuntal music, however. The Hungarian lutenist, principally based at the Polish court, was a renowned virtuoso, and his tablatures are generally regarded as some of the most demanding of the 16th century. On his deathbed he is said to have burned most of his manuscripts, claiming that only he could play his music satisfactorily, an idea enshrined in a Polish proverb: "Don’t play the lute after Bakfark". This recording includes six precise intabulations of contrapuntal chansons or motets by the Netherlandish masters Josquin, Crecquillion, Arcadelt and Clemens non Papa, two equally sophisticated fantasias of Bakfark’s own, and an intabulation of the Polish song "Black cow", from which the recording takes its name. These pieces are separated by 12 Polish dances drawn from Waissel’s collections of the 1590s, lighter and in some cases recognisably later in style: a few are reminiscent of Dowland.

Heringman plays these works with a facility, poise and restraint that puts the Polish proverb to the test. One feels every one of the 18 years separating this recording from Daniel Benko’s 1981 Lautenmusik der Renaissance (Teldec 6.42705 AZ), which also focussed on Bakfark. DGM promise more recordings from Heringman, and if the label continues to allow him room to explore challenging and relatively neglected areas of the lute repertoire in this way, then we have a great deal to look forward to.

Jonathan Le Cocq, Consort (the Dolmetsch Society Journal), 2000