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Thursday, February 16, 2012

A lute tale

"... playing or listening to the lute brings me an unsurpassed satisfaction. First I did not realize it but now I understand what many people of the young generation are looking for: the same longing for subtlety, purity, simplicity and an enormous rhythmic vitality. I felt so happy having played a simple piece error-free!
It is a sheer joy making lute music sound the way it should.
Much later, when I toured the United States with Carl Dolmetsch, I also played recorder and virginal, but the difference with the lute was immense.
As a lute soloist I discovered the magic that is created when a piece - however simple - is performed well.
The audience was enchanted!
It was as if all the stress and noise of our present time were swiped away..."

The above extract was taken by a longer article written in 1969 by Suzanne Bloch (the daughter of the composer Ernest Bloch)... and... well, it sounds sooooo true and actual and well written.... and right.

The characters: Arnold Dolmetsch, Walter Gerwig, Eugen Muller-Dombois, Hopkinson Smith, Michael Schaffer,
Toyohiko Satoh, Anthony Bailes, Paul O'dette... almost mythical musicians and truly mythical instruments by Matheus Pochl, Wendelin Tieffenbrucker and other museum quality instruments built between 200 and 400 years ago... and still alive and kickin'... they played a role in the tale.

Read... ooooh, PLEASE read this truly illuminating essay by Jo Van Herck...

Consider that Julian Bream, positively guilty of some broadening and renaissance of interest around the lute, back in early fifties, was playing a sort-of "non-existing" instrument, whose single strings tension was several kilos more than the whole strings-set in historic-compliant, now broadly accepted and used, baroque or renaissance lutes around...

In fact, Bream's "lute" was quite guitar-like sounding... all the awesome nuances lute is able got lost... anyway he woke up interest... priceless!

Same - someway - "wrongness" can be found in Konrad Ragossnig and Walter Gerwig's playing, better, sound... too loud, too guitar-like, again... same Bream's approach: their playing is now - respectfully said - almost completely unlistenable, to me!

Then came Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Basel, Switzerland: it maybe was the true goldmine of this "Lutes and Lutenists' New Deal", the "Subtleties Hochschule":-): under Eugen Muller Dombois' wing grew up the new breed of best lutanists masters: Smith, Satoh, Bailes, Stone and a bunch of other stellar names you'll find in a.m. essay.

BTW, it's very, VERY sad such an absolute master like Eugen M. Dombois has less Web coverage than a soccer player or a baby rocker from some obscure TV reality-show... or - humbly said - myself;-)))!

No life- or even Wiki-facts... no pixes but an old one on a Seon's disc cover... nothing more.

Privacy excess or... plainly said, a shame?!?!

It's an amazingly intriguing topic... I feel so fascinated, same as when I spent two solid days handling "blue-prints" 1:1 size of classic ancient lutes and theorbos at Royal College of Music in London, back in early '90s... looking at the inner secrets of those wooden, light as feathers, incredibly beautiful and rare masterpieces which stood wars, riots, plagues, travels, complicate as ancient Egyptians' royal wooden boats was one of my life highlights, ever.

Or when I stood in awe for hours in early '00s at The Kunsthistorisches Museum on Ringstrasse in Wien, in front of centuries old lutes in glass cages, under controlled humidity conditions... looking at the details, like someone else would have done in front of a Picasso's painting... WOW!

... or, finally (?) when I spent two days at a masterclass, invited - yes, invited - by maestro Hopkinson Smith... I'm a guitar and oud player, yet maestro Smith, after some chatting in Venice and in my hometown, possibly "saw" the light of truest interest in my feverish eyes and... voilà... he changed my musical life!

The care, the love for details, the way he both listens and plays...

Am I a lunatic? Maybe, yet everyone has his obsessions... a man is his obsessions!:-)))

... and I love it ALL... deeply!

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