Solo Music

This is the most extensive section of the website. Much of the music I have arranged is English (and Scottish) renaissance music from the ‘Golden Age’ of lute music in this country associated with the popularity of the instrument at the English and Scottish royal courts and among the nobility. The height of this popularity was between (approximately) 1540 and 1650 during the reigns of the English monarchs Henry VIII (1509 - 1547), Edward VI (1547 - 1553), Mary Tudor (1553 - 1558), Elizabeth I (1558 - 1603), James I (1603 - 1625) and Charles I (1625 - 1649); and the Scottish monarchs James V (1513 - 1542), Mary Stewart (1543 - 1567) and James VI, who became James I of England (1567 - 1625). Music printing came late to the British Isles, and nearly all of this music is to be found in manuscript sources of which there are fifty or so that survive to the present day containing around 3,000 separate pieces. Much of the music in these sources is unattributed and there are many pieces where the attribution to a particular composer is unclear. However about 10 well-known musicians account for the bulk of the attributed pieces and a long list of lesser names account for a few pieces each. (I have written on this topic in an essay entitled Attribution in Golden Age English Lute Music.)

The ‘Golden Age’ tradition continued during the first part of the seventeenth century, though lute music in England became increasingly influenced by French styles and there was also a gradual decline in the popularity of the instrument. Nevertheless there is a considerable amount of interesting seventeenth century English lute music to be found Currently the later golden age English style is represented here by Cuthbert Hely and John Wilson.

I have also arranged a number of pieces from continental sources. Many of these are later than the English pieces. There are early sources from all over Europe but with progression towards Baroque styles in the seventeenth century France and Germany became the main centres of innovation in lute music, with the popularity of the lute persisting in Germany well into the eighteenth century.

The seventeenth century is marked by the transition in lute tuning from renaissance tuning (viel ton) through a number of transitional tunings to baroque tuning, later lutes usually having more bass courses (so that Sylvius Weiss, the last of the great German lutenists, used instruments with as many as 13 courses). Pieces written in baroque tuning for these larger instruments often pose a considerable challenge to the arranger!

There is a fascinating and very detailed account of the history of the lute in Great Britain in Spring (2001), and a beautiful illustrated account of the lute in Europe in Schlegel (2006).

I have also included, throughout this site, music originally written for some other instruments including the harpsichord and the
lyra viol.

Grading Following requests to grade the pieces by difficulty. I have adopted (for the solo pieces) a 01 - 10 scale similar to that used on the Delcamp Guitar Forum* This aligns more or less with other gradings such as the 1- 8 grades of the UK Trinity College of Music though, of course, all gradings are fairly subjective and can only be a general guide.
*which all classical guitarists should join!

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