Jan Antonín Losy: note d’oro

Jakob Lindberg
BIS-2462 SACD (ecopak)

Jan Antonín Losy  (c.1650-1721) is arguably one of the most important composers for the 11-course lute, at least according to the frontispiece of LeSage de Richée’s Cabinet der Lauten (Breslau, 1695), where a pile of books has Losy’s music on top, above books by Gaultier, Mouton and Dufaut. I have always admired his music, and played some every day in 2019 without exception. His compositions are satisfying to play, pleasing to the ear, with well-sructured melodic lines, interesting harmonies, and considerable variety. There is a lightness of texture resulting from a fair amount of style brisé. In 1715, the Prague Kapellmeister, Gottfried Heinrich Stöltzel, described how Losy would savour a particular dissonance, calling it “una nota d’oro” (a golden note), hence the title of Jakob Lindberg’s CD.

The CD begins with a suite in A minor, compiled by Lindberg from various sources, including a Prelude adapted from one for baroque guitar, and a Courante and Double with an unobtrusive touch of notes inégales and a surprising secondary dominant towards the end. Lindberg’s playing is most gratifying – lively yet unhurried, with well-shaped phrases allowing the harmonies to follow their logical course to a final cadence, which is almost invariably decorated with dissonance on the tonic. An Aria is played at a very sedate speed, giving time for delicate ornaments to be heard clearly, followed by a thoughtful Gavotte enhanced by what I assume are Lindberg’s own additional notes for repeats. The suite ends with a lively two-voice Caprice, where fast running notes are shared between treble and bass. Next comes a suite in F major, the seven selected movements long known to modern lute players from Emil Vogel’s Z Loutnových Tabulatur Českého Baroka (Prague: Editio Supraphon, 1977). After a slow, stately start, the overture breaks into three fast beats in a bar, developing a theme of three crotchets and four quavers, before returning briefly to the slower speed of the beginning. Then comes a restful Allemande with much imitation, nice little variants (presumably Lindberg’s own) for repeats, and a passage of parallel tenths played brisé for the repeat. The overall pitch then drops for a Courante, which canters along in continuous quavers in style brisé, so that in the second section there are only three places where more than one note is played at a time. The piece ends with a descending sequence, which Lindberg decorates for a petite reprise. In contrast the following Sarabande has a thicker texture, with many rolled chords. Its second section begins with a surprising chord of C minor, played on the lower reaches of the lute – its highest note (g) is on the fourth course. As with so many of these pieces, Lindberg tastefully adds myriad extra notes to enliven repeats.

There is just one place in the whole of this delightful CD where I think something is not quite right. In the Sarabande of the Suite in D minor, the F major chord at the start of bar 13 should really be in root position, but Lindberg plays it as a second inversion with the note c in the bass, and does the same for the repeat. I wonder if his edition has that note accidentally notated one line too low in the tablature.

With suites in A minor, F major, G major, D minor, G minor and B flat major, ending with a Chaconne in F major, there is much to enjoy. Apart from Lindberg’s masterful playing, there is one thing which makes it all rather special: his lute was built c. 1590 by Sixtus Rauwolf of Augsburg, probably as a seven- or eight-course instrument, and surprisingly it still has its original soundboard. It was later adapted to be an 11-course lute, and was restored a few years ago by Michael Lowe, Stephen Gottlieb and David Munro. Its sound is well balanced, with clear bright notes in the treble, and bass notes which are not too loud and do not sustain too long. With its variety of tone colours, it helps make the music sing, and must undoubtedly be an inspiration to play. Note d’oro indeed.

Stewart McCoy

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