Printer Friendly

Performance on Lute, Guitar, and Vihuela: Historical Practice and Modern Interpretation.

Edited by Victor Anand Coelho. (Cambridge Studies in Performance Practice, 6.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. [xix, 231 p. ISBN 0-521-45528-6. $64.95.]

In the wake of such progenitors as Andres Segovia and Julian Bream, performers on the lute and various guitar-related instruments have found themselves gradually drawn into issues of performance practice over the past three decades. Literature on this subject for these instruments has appeared mainly in specialist periodicals and has too often tended to be polemical and dogmatic, reflecting prevailing attitudes in general performance-practice studies over the years, but also evincing the amateurism of many of the authors and their investigative methods. These facts make the appearance of nine well-researched, welldocumented scholarly essays in so prestigious a series as Cambridge Studies in Performance Practice welcome indeed.

Perhaps most striking in these essays is the balance of historical research and practical performance requirements. The arguments move from critical examination of sources "such as treatises, tutors, prefaces, scholarly editions, and occasionally paintings" to "areas that have not been traditionally validated by either musicology or pedagogy: amateur and street music, household books, orality, living traditions (traditional and folk music), popular music, modern recordings, and the subjective experience" (p. xv). As a result, the authors are able to draw conclusions from a broad viewpoint, frequently offering several alternative solutions to problems that previously published studies tended to address in rigidly monotypic terms.

The contents of this volume are organized both chronologically and by instrument, beginning with various forms of the lute, then the vihuela, the five-course guitar (though excluding its precursor, the fourcourse instrument), and the early six-string guitar. Vladimir Ivanoff studies the Pesaro Manuscript, a heart-shaped document from the fifteenth century that is the primary source of works for the plectral lute. Dinko Fabris provides an inventory of surviving printed regole from 1507 to 1759 that teach how to play the line contrapuntally with the fingers. Daniel Fischlin argues for "interiority" and "privacy" as the primary aesthetic ideals of English lute song from 1596 to 1622, challenging the concepts of "oratory" and "Orphism" proffered by Robert Toft and Anthony Rooley. Kevin Mason discusses how to create stylistically appropriate lute accompaniments to late-sixteenthcentury Italian monody by studying earlier arrangements of vocal polyphony wherein one part is sung anti the others are intabulated for lute. Victor Coelho draws on his considerable knowledge of manuscript sources to discuss seventeenth-century Italian lutenists' varying approaches to interpretation. His exemplars of pedagogical manuscripts and of professional players' elaborations of classic pieces are particularly compelling. Wallace Rave contributes a parallel piece, bringing equal expertise to these same issues as they apply to seventeenth-century French lutenists. John Griffiths seeks to synthesize an understanding of vihuela performance practices based on the handful of surviving sources. Gary Boye discusses the long-standing problem of employing octave bourdon strings on the five-course guitar, with particular attention to practices in Bologna and Rome. The closing essay by Richard Savino examines performance techniques of the early six-string guitar as shown in methods and similar documents written in the first half of the nineteenth century.

The lute, the "queen of instruments," has been more highly regarded than the early guitar anti has received more serious musicological attention. We may have no less august a personage to thank for this state of affairs than Manfred Bukofzer, whose highly influential book on the baroque includes these statements: "The Spanish fashion in Italy brought a speedy victory of the noisy guitar over the dignified lute"; "The vulgar guitar, with its simple technique of chord strumming, took over" (Music in the Baroque Era [New York: Norton, 1947], 47, 168). Bukofzer's choice of adjectives makes his estimation clear: the lute is "dignified" and worthy of serious consideration; the guitar, on the other hand, is "noisy" and "vulgar," an illegitimate usurper functioning as the negative variable in a musicological equivalent of Gresham's law. Though he mentions the guitar compositions of Robert de Visce, Bukofzer sadly did not live to see the discovery and growing appreciation of music by such guitarists as Giovanni Paolo Foscarini, Giovanni Battista Granata, Francesco Corbetta, Francois Campion, or Santiago de Murcia - composers who moved beyond the "simple technique of chord strumming" to produce a body of works skillfully combining plucked (pizzicato, punteado) and strummed (battuto, rasgueado) techniques in extended suites and detached pieces replete with complex melodic and rhythmic ornaments executed by both hands.

Bukofzer's prejudices have been handed down to several generations of musicians and may explain in part why the guitar has been the object of so little musicological study compared to the lute. The present volume is no exception: articles on the lute occupy two-thirds of the book. While the paucity of surviving source material (seven printed books, a few manuscripts, and the remains of two anomalous instruments) makes study of the vihuela problematic, the same cannot be said of the guitar, either the four- or five-course instruments or the early six-string guitar. It is therefore both surprising and a little disturbing to find the guitar so underrepresented in this book; thus the two articles pertaining to the instrument deserve some additional mention.

Boye's essay is based on one facet of his dissertation ("Giovanni Battista Granata and the Development of Printed Music for the Guitar in Seventeenth-Century Italy" [Ph.D. diss., Duke University, 1995]). He combines an exemplary command of the sources through personal examination with an eminently practical approach to the demands of modern performance, presenting a view that is lucid, thoughtful, and refreshingly free of rigidity. If Boye's contribution here does nothing more than lead readers to his fine dissertation, it will accomplish much.

Savino acknowledges his debt to Paul Cox's pioneering dissertation ("Classic Guitar Technique and Its Evolution as Reflected in Method Books ca. 1770-1850" [Ph.D. diss., Indiana University, 1978]). He examines most of the same categories outlined by Cox, but in greater detail than Cox could undertake in his surveying study. Savino's observations on the execution of ornaments and the application of thoroughbass training to guitar playing are particularly noteworthy.

One hopes that this book signals a trend toward fresh approaches to performance practices for these instruments. The advances into new areas of source materials and the more realistically flexible interpretations of solutions to problems presented here are positive developments.

CALVIN ELLIKER University of Michigan
COPYRIGHT 1999 Music Library Association, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Review
Author:Elliker, Calvin
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 1999
Previous Article:Opera in Context: Essays on Historical Staging from the Late Renaissance to the Time of Puccini.
Next Article:International Encyclopedia of Dance.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters