The Siena Lute Book Jacob Heringman

Avie AV0036 72'06”

Francesco da Milano etc.


The Siena Lute Book (The Hague, Gemeentemuseum, MS 28.B.39) is an important collection of over 150 pieces for the lute, mostly fantasies and ricercars. It was compiled in Siena c. 1590, but much of the repertory is retrospective, going back to the early part of the 16th century. Composers indude Francesco da Milano, Fabrizio Dentice and Perino Fiorentino.

Jacob Heringman’s thoughtful interpretation invites the concentrated listening needed to appreciate these extraordinarily beautiful miniatures. Never hurried, he invites us into a world of sophisticated melancholy. Yet the music is not static. There is flowing lyricism in the anonymous Passemezo del giorgio, and carefully stated points of imitation grow into scurrying bursts in Francesco da Milano's Ricercata. Heringman's ability to sustain the intensity of these pieces is shown in his restrained, well-poised performance of the two virtuosic fantasias (tracks 10 and 12) by Fabrizio Dentice. The last track, also by Dentice is particularly lovely. The opening Fantasia by Francesco da Parigi contains some surprising dissonances. The false relation at 45” is bad enough, but the one at 2’29” is utterly painful. Ouch!

For two anonymous settings of La Spagna detta Lamire, Heringman is joined by tenorista Lynda Sayce, whose chords provide the tenor, while he explores the full range of the lute with bustling, yet graceful single-line divisions. Hering-man's reconstruction of the Lute 2 part has the Spagna tenor in the bass throughout – unlike Francesco da Milano's lute duet setting, but with the precedent of Diego Ortiz.


Not all the music is from the Siena manuscript. Tracks 7-9 are from the Medici Lute Book (Haslemere, Dolmetsch Library, MS II C23), believed to have been copied by the scribe of the Siena Lute Book. Lutenists will perhaps be interested to hear the anonymous Balletto, which has remarkable similarities with John Dowland's Lady Hunsdon’s Puffe. Who was copying whom?

According to the CD cover, three bonus tracks may be downloaded via the internet from www.magnatune.com.

Stewart McCoy

Early Music Review, June 2004