Lute composers in Italy in 1450 [sic] enjoyed much the same happy situation as Italian violin composers in 1700: the respective instruments' construction had reached a certain stable maturity, the performance technique was at a high level, and its full compositional possibilities were just beginning to be revealed within a general compositional milieu that was itself both rich and mature.

The composers who were best able to take advantage of this situation (for example, da Milano and Dentice in the first case, Corelli and Vivaldi in the second) transformed instrumental music in concise, yet often powerful forms. The music on this CD explores this exciting period in lute history, as preserved in the Siena and the Medici Lute Books.

Jacob Heringman has many wonderful things to bring to these performances. Foremost among them is phrasing. The contrapuntal structures of the sometimes rather dense pieces are revealed with clarity. Some of this is due to a crisp, controlled right hand, of course. But to truly project a four-voice structure on the lute, each voice must be individually defined, and Heringman does this in masterful fashion, with short, clear phrases.

Heringman has written helpful notes on the pieces, although for some reason nearly half of the tracks are not discussed. One very nice feature is the list of instrument credits for each track.

Heringman plays four different instruments in this recording, all strung with gut. The four, a Tomlinson (bright, clear treble), a Lowe Frei copy (rich and deep), a Haycock seven-course after Gerle (sparkly trebles, bass a bit thick), and another Gerle reconstruction by Rutherford (bright in both treble and bass) all bring special qualities to the performance.

Stephen Dydo, © 2004

from Early Music America, Autumn 2004