Polonica: Lute music with Polish connections around 1600

Michał Gondko renaissance lute
70:51
Ramée RAM 1406

In his extensive liner notes Michal Gondko defines Polonica as music with a Polish title, composed by a Pole, or which the copyist describes as Polish. He has assembled an interesting collection of lute music from the 1580s to the 1620s. There is considerable variety, from simple dance melodies to complex fantasias, taken from eight printed sources and nine manuscripts (all helpfully listed in the liner notes). Five of the dances are from Mattheus Waissel’s Tabulatura  (1591), in duple and triple time, some jolly and some sad, sensitively played, and restful to the ears. Another five are from the manuscript known as Danzig 4022, now in Berlin. They are nice pieces, but performed here in a way which would encourage me to sit back in my armchair and listen, rather than feel inspired to get up and dance. Most attractive are three dances from Leipzig MS II.6.15 (the Dlugorai Manuscript), one of which is ascribed to Alberti Dlugorai (c.1557-after 1619). Other works by him include a curious stop-go Villanella, his well-known Finale from Besard’s Thesaurus Harmonicus  (1603) – with a surprisingly dreamy interpretation quite unlike the punchy interpretation of others – and two prelude-like fantasias.

The second one (track 16) is an amalgam from two sources – Leipzig MS II.6.15 and Besard (1603) – created by Gondko to overcome problematic passages, and performed with a fair amount of rhythmic freedom. Another significant Polish composer represented here is Diomedes Cato (c.1560-after 1618) with a Galliarda from the Chilesotti lute book and a lovely Prelude with interesting harmonies from Besard (1603, recte 4 recto, not verso). Gondko includes a couple of pieces composed for the viol by Tobias Hume – A Pollish Vilanell and A Polish Ayre – to which he tastefully adds ornaments and a few divisions for repeats. Hume’s idiosyncratic style is unmistakeable, and although the viol is limited to chords involving adjacent strings, his music works well on the lute. The CD ends with two pieces by Jacob Reys – a Galliarda which explores the higher reaches of the lute (10th fret), with Gondko’s added ornaments and divisions, and a Fantasia from Besard 1603 (recte 21 verso, not recto). Gondko’s lute was made by Paul Thomson. It has seven courses, and a clear, bright sound particularly in the upper register.

Stewart McCoy