Elizabeth’s Lutes

Elizabeth’s Lutes
Alex McCartney
Veterum Musica. 56’05

Elizabeth's Lutes cover artThe music on this recording reflects the music in and around Elizabeth I’s court. A keen lute player herself, at the height of her Golden Age, she employed some 70 musicians in her court. Rather surprisingly, the first piece is by Orlande de Lassus, Susanne un jour, somebody with no Elizabethan connection at all. But this became very popular throughout Europe, and is played here in a contemporary version found in the Matthew Holmes Manuscript in Cambridge University Library.

Four pieces are by Daniel Bacheler , nephew of the lutenist and dancing master at Elizabeth’s court, soon joining the same court as a lutenist and groom of the Privie Chamber. And that is the clue to the intimacy of this music – it was intended for the monarch’s most private quarters in their busy palaces. According to the programme notes, these pieces are notoriously tricky to play, although I wouldn’t have noticed that from Alex McCartney’s assured performance here. Despite his musical credentials, Anthony Holborne’s post at court seems to have been as some sort of ‘Gentleman Usher’, perhaps reflecting his more advanced education that most musicians at the court. His three pieces include the two reflective Pavanes, Sedet sola and Patencia and his concluding (in more ways than one) Last Will and Testament.

Alex McCartney’s playing is sensitive and musical, and the recording picks up the sound of the lute very well. He uses 6 and 8 course lutes made by Luke Emmet after Hieber. More details can be found here.

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