Wednesday, 30 December 2009

The lute - what's to be grumpy?


Quite a lot, actually!

First, obviously... him. Grubby the entry to my lair may be, but I can't bring myself to besmirch it further - suffice to say that the lute (and Dowland) have mingled freely with the discarded bones and guano for some time, thank you; the last thing I allow in the cave is littering by the international entertainment industrial complex.

But wait: is it just my smell - or do surprisingly few music-lovers seem impelled to join me in foraging outside the central repertoire? Isn't that a bit like eating only meat and two veg? In the 1960s, it was perhaps not too much to hope that this wonderful instrument and music might join the mainstream. Today, the lute's perhaps lost its taint of homespun bohemianism but it seems as marginal as ever.

Enough, already!? Lute-lovers have been superbly served on disc over the last three decades (Naxos, signing Christopher Wilson and Nigel North - inspired!). Sure, but the lute's pioneers on record have been almost completely silenced, thanks to a combination of that same lack of curiosity allied to the myopic meliorism which ensures that almost no pre-'HIP' recordings of early music are reissued or broadcast, except those by performers famous in other repertoire.

That's a red rag to Grumpy! I've already passed several old lute recordings all over various newsgroups; now here's a fresh do-do, in the shapely and fragrant form of a groovy little Véga 45 issued in 1959 and entitled, simply, 'Luth', which I just bought from a great eBay LP seller whom I can highly recommend as a nice guy and honest dealer, Gerard of Eagle4Records.

It's played by Mildred Clary, the French music journalist, biographer and broadcaster who seems to have started her career as a guitarist (her Homenaje for Debussy was reissued in EMI France's box of Falla 'Introuvables') and lutenist. I'm not a lutenist meself, so I can't comment on her technique, but I find her manner poetic and well attuned to this music, which she rightly describes as 'd'une très grande beauté'.

Not sure exactly what all the pieces are - early music nomenclature was often pretty vague at the time - so I'd welcome more precise identification! In the meantime, I've labelled the tracks in the FLAC tags pretty much as they are on the sleeve (which conflates the last two bands of Side 2 into one). Here's Clary's original sleeve note:

GREENSLEEVES. — Air célèbre qui date du regne d'Henri VIII, et auquel Shakespeare fait allusion, à deux reprises, dans Les Joyeuses Commères de Windsor.
KEMPS JIG. — Kemp était un comédien célèbre du XVIIe siècle. Certaines pièces de luth lui ont été attribuées.
OPHELIA. — Vieille ballade datant du début du XVIe siècle et que Shakespeare fait chanter par Ophélie, dans Hamlet, lorsqu'elle devient folle.
ALMEN (Allemande). — Cette pièce est de Robert Johnson, luthiste à la Cour d'Angleterre au XVIIe siecle, et renommé autant par son jeu que par ses compositions.
THE SICK TUNE (L'air malade). — D'un auteur anonyme du début du XVIIe siècle.
PIVA (danse d'origine paysanne) et PAVANA ALLA VENETIANA de Joanambrosio Dalza figurent dans un recueil de tablature de luth publié en 1508, et qui est l'un des plus anciens que l'on connaisse.
GAILLARDE. — Pierre Attaignant auquel on doit cette gaillarde, ainsi qu'un grand nombre de danses et autres pièces pour luth, fut l'éditeur de musique de Francois Ier.
FABORDON (Faux-bourdon). — Le faux-bourdon est une sorte d'improvisation sur un plain-chant liturgique. Le premier manuscrit connu où l'on voit ce style d'écriture date du XIIIe siecle.
PAVANE. — Illustre luthiste espagnol, Luis Milan, l'auteur de cette pavane, vécut à la Cour du vice-roi de Valence: Don Fernando d'Aragon. Il compose de nombreuses pièces pour la vihuela (luth espagnol), d'une très grande beauté.

No denoising apart from ClickRepair; 9 mono FLACs, with a sleeve scan, in a .rar file at:
http://www.mediafire.com/file/zhdjjrjjrmo/Vega_CS_45_279_Mildred_Clary.rar

Harrumph!

UPDATE
Mildred Clary died, aged 80, last Thursday, 18th November 2010. Some notices.

3 comments:

  1. Thanks a lot, Nick!
    J'ai toujours beaucoup apprécié Mildred Clary comme productrice d'émissions sur France-Musique ; en plus d'avoir une voix radiogénique et séduisante, ses propos manquent rarement de tact, d'humour et de finesse.
    Est-ce le début d'une série sur cette femme passionnante ?

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  2. Merci, Benoît! Oui, en effet, j'espère pouvoir afficher sous peu un magnifique coffret de deux 33t de 'Musique d'autrefois' (XVe et XVIe siècles) interprétée par la Société de musique d'autrefois, dont Mildred Clary. A bientôt et Bonne Année! Nick

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  3. Merci! P'tain, elle est belle! La musique aussi...

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