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The Mathew Holmes Manuscripts I: Cambridge University Library MS Dd.2.11.

The Mathew Holmes Manuscripts I: Cambridge University Library MS Dd.2.11. Two vols. and supplement in slipcase. Introduction, Inventory and Bibliography: John H. Robinson. Commentary: Stewart McCoy. Image Processing: Craig Hartley. Co-ordination and Typesetting: Ian Harwood. (Lute Society Facsimiles, 7.) Guildford: Lute Society, 2010. [Vol. 1: Contents, p. iii-vii; color facsimile, p. 1-200. Vol. 2: Introd., p. 1-8; inventory, p. 9-26; commentary, p. 27-62; bibliog., p. 63-70. Tablature supplement: p. 1-8. ISBN 978 0 905655 71 0. 75.00 [pounds sterling].]

For English readers, there are two main scholarly societies dedicated to the lute and similar instruments: the Lute Society of America, and its older British counterpart called simply The Lute Society. This is the seventh volume in the latter's Lute Society Facsimiles series, which began in 1987 with Partie in B flat Major for 11-Course Baroque Lute: Facsimile of a Manuscript (c. 1720) by Wolff Jakob Lauffensteiner (1676-1754). This first volume was edited by English lute scholar Robert Spencer (1932-1997), to whom the present volume is dedicated. The series continued in 2000 with volume 2: Krakow Mus. Ms. 40641 (ex Berlin) also edited by Spencer, and then four important English lute sources: volume 3 (2003): The Folger"Dowland" Manuscript (now at the Folger Shakespeare Library, MS V.b.280, with music by John Dowland but no longer thought to be in his hand; volume 4 (2004): The Welde Lute Book (now in the private library of Lord Forester at Willey Park, Shropshire; volume 5 (2007): Osborn fb7 (Yale University Music Library MS 13); and volume 6 (2008): The "Wickhambrook" Lute Manuscript (Yale University Music Deposit), all with detailed critical notes and introductions. The series continues here with one of the largest and most important English lute manuscripts, Cambridge University Library MS Dd.2.11.

The facsimile contains three separate encased parts: (1) the full-color facsimile itself, with over 200 pages, just slightly smaller than the original, which is 350 mm tall by 229 mm wide; (2) a second volume entitled "Introduction, Inventory, Commentary, Bibliography" by the English scholars John H. Robinson and Stewart McCoy; and (3) a short eight-page supplement in tablature clarifying illegible parts of the facsimile. Since this last part contains fragments of music difficult to read in the original, librarians would be wise to bind it separately from the facsimile volume so that both can be open and consulted at the same time. And obviously this is a volume for lutenists: the music is in French lute tablature with no effort to transcribe anything into modern notation. Those who cannot read tablature will have to transcribe or find editions of separate pieces elsewhere, although given the number of major composers represented, there are quite a few works here that are available in modern editions. Certainly the thirty-eight pieces by John Dowland, including such favorites as Melancholy Galliard, Lachrimae Pavan, Orlando Sleepeth, and several well-known fantasias, are readily available in Diana Poulton's and Basil Lam's edition of his complete works for lute (The Collected Lute Music of John Dowland [London: Faber Music, 1974]). Other composers present in this large collection of 324 separate works include almost all the major English lutenists: John Johnson, Francis Cutting, Anthony Holborne, Richard Allison, and others (only Robert Johnson and Daniel Bacheler appear to be missing), as well as major contemporaneous continental figures such as Emanuel Adriaensen and Matthaus Waissel. Italian and German lutenists from earlier generations, among them Francesco da Milano, Joan Maria da Crema, and Melchior Neusidler, are also represented. In addition, the manuscript is the major source for an instrument closely related to the lute: the bandora, a metalstrung chordophone with an unusual and immediately recognizable tuning ([C.sub.1]-[D.sub.1]-[G.sub.1]-C-E-A). The fifty-six pieces for bandora here account for over half of the existing solo works for the instrument.

John Robinson brings his encyclopedic and practical knowledge of the sources to bear in his lengthy introduction to the manuscript's tangled history. Of the four English solo lute manuscripts now at Cambridge University, Dd.2.11 is the largest; the other three, all in the same hand, are Dd.5.78, Dd.9.33, and Nn.6.36. There are also five related partbooks for broken consort: Dd.4.23, Dd.3.18, Dd.5.20, Dd.5.21, and Dd.14.24. Until 1963, scholars attempted with varying degrees of apparent success to demonstrate that these manuscripts originated at Cambridge. Also, as was all too common in research on English lute manuscripts, early scholars tried to connect Dd.2.11 to the hand of John Dowland--an attribution originally accepted even by Diana Poulton but later dismissed by her in the publication of his lute music mentioned above. Robinson follows the rather tortuous history of research on these manuscripts and the attempts to connect them to Cambridge until 1963, when Ian Harwood proved that they were all in the hand of Mathew Holmes, ironically at Christ Church, Oxford, where he served as precentor and singing master, ca. 1588-97 (Ian Harwood, "The Origins of the Cambridge Lute Manuscripts," Lute Society Joumalb [1963]: 32-48). Holmes later went from Christ Church to Westminster Abbey where he continued compiling the manuscripts possibly until his death in 1621.

Connecting Dd.2.11 with the other manuscripts in Holmes's hand, totaling over 700 individual pieces compiled over twenty-five years, begs the question: why were these large and carefully prepared works collected? In 2001, Matthew Spring theorized that their purposes were purely didactic: Holmes used them to teach the choir boys lute both at Oxford and Westminster Abbey (Matthew Spring, The Lute in Britain: A History of the Instrument and its Music, Oxford Early Music Series [Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2001]). While this view is still generally accepted, Harwood later proposed that at least the earlier manuscripts (including Dd.2.11) may have been written as a presentation piece for a patron, Dr. John Case, who died in 1600 before Holmes had completed them (Ian Harwood, "'A Lecture in Musick, with the Practice thereof by Instrument in the Common Schooles,' Mathew Holmes and Music at Oxford University c. 1588-1627," Lute Society Journal 45 [2005]: 1-70). Harwood also established that Holmes likely had all the manuscripts in his possession at Westminster. It is still unknown how these manuscripts wound up at Cambridge. In any event, Dd.2.11 is now accepted as the earliest of four solo lute books by Holmes probably originating from his appointment at Christ Church, Oxford, in 1588 and continuing with him to Westminster Abbey in 1597 and later. The order of their compilation appears to be: (1) Dd.2.11, clearly the first; (2) Dd.5.78.3, with some overlap of Dd.2.11; (3) Dd.9.33, begun at Westminster, along with (4) Nn.6.36. We are fortunate indeed to have such a wealth of carefully notated solo lute music representing a broad national and international tradition, in addition to the consort books.

Most of the pieces in Dd.2.11 can be played on a six-course lute in G tuning ([G.sub.1]-C-F-A-d-g), although a few call for a seventh course. Unlike earlier English lute manuscripts, the music by English lutenists here represents a mature native style, less dependent on foreign models than earlier work. Robinson includes an extensive list of concordances in the critical notes with detailed commentaries on each piece. The facsimile itself makes it readily apparent that this was a source treasured perhaps too closely through the years: the tops of many folios were water damaged and worn, even completely missing in places--wear that appears to have continued in recent decades. Interestingly, Robinson used earlier photographic and microfilm copies to re-create some portions of the manuscript that have become worn in recent times and are no longer legible. These early microfilms by Robert Spencer are thus all that remains of the original notation for portions of the manuscript. I should add that even libraries that own the later microfilms of Dd.2.11 contained in Music Manuscripts of 16th & 17th Century Lute Music (New York: Datamics, 1985) will still want to purchase this volume for the greater overall clarity and legibility of the text, as well as the obviously improved ease of use. One hopes that the publication of this facsimile will limit wear to the original in the future.

The tablature supplement contains modern reconstructions for these parts that are illegible in the original, and thus also the facsimile reproduction. Some reconstructions contain entire lines of music, carefully marked with the original folio and facsimile page numbers and the staves. For example, the first contains an entire line from a Preludium on fol. 1r that has been sloppily altered in the original. Despite the high quality of the facsimile, two measures of this line are nearly impossible to decipher without the supplement. In other cases, like the next example from Alfonso Ferrabosco's Pavan on fol. 1v, the top stave is water damaged and partially missing in the gutter--many of the succeeding examples are reconstructions of similarly damaged passages. There is no indication in the facsimile itself of which passages are clarified in the supplement, but overall the text is quite legible and one begins to sense where the supplement will be needed. Holmes's handwriting, for a sixteenth-century lute manuscript, is clear and legible, although the original tablature "d" can be looped so openly as to look a bit like a "g" on the line above in places. The lutenist's eye soon adjusts to the handwriting, however, although the darkness of the original page makes lengthy reading wearisome.

For those of us who have examined facsimiles of works of far lesser quality, The Lute Society and Robinson are to be applauded for accomplishing the expensive and difficult task of making available a manuscript like Dd.2.11 with such important and aesthetically satisfying music. And for those who too readily reach for the edited modern editions, either in tablature or modern transcription, it is a reminder that the original notation can never fully be replaced; that there is no one "correct" version of a particular work by Dowland or any of these lutenists/bandorists, but rather many different instantiations of a piece, each deserving of study within its own appropriate context. The contextual use of music is revealed so clearly in a facsimile such as this. We see, for example, John Dowland's Doctor Case's Pavan (for the potential dedicatee?), right after an anonymous and untitled piece for bandora and just before two fantasias by Francesco da Milano. The Dowland work thus becomes something quite different than just another piece in the complete works, divorced of its original context or merged with other manuscript and print versions. It is as close as any of us need to come to the fragile original. Highly recommended for all collections with an interest in lute or early music.


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Author:Boye, Gary R.
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 1, 2014
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