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Lorenzino del Liuto (c.1552-1590)

Preludes, Fantasias and Dances
  Lorenzino del Liuto (properly Lorenzo Tracetti) was one of the most famous and accomplished virtuosi of the lute. He lived in the second half of the sixteenth century and he must be counted among those composers who strongly influenced Italian and foreign lute literature. His music enjoyed wide contemporary fame throughout Europe, a fact to which a number of surviving sources bear witness. Anthologies of his work, issued between 1601 and 1617, were printed in various cities of Europe, from Utrecht to Cologne, Nuremberg and Strasbourg, and many of his manuscripts were collected by foreign lutenists. Many decades after his death Lorenzino's name was still widely known. It can be found in the famous book by Ernst Gottlieb Baron, Historisch-theoretisch und practische Untersuchung des Instruments der Lauten (1727) (Historical, Theoretical and Practical Investigation of the Instrument of the Lute), which defines Lorenzino as one of the most famous musicians and is also mentioned by Johann Gottfried Walther in his Musikalisches Lexicon (1735). Lorenzino spent many years in Rome where he was born, worked and died, thus helping the continuity and evolution of the Roman lute school. The latter, beginning with Francesco da Milano and other lutenists in the Papal service, continued with Lorenzino and the Knight of the Lute (Pinti) and, in the following century with Kapsberger, Colista, Lori, and eventually with esteemed continuo players in the first half of the eighteenth century such as Gaetani and Bertosi. Lorenzino has a central position in Italian lute music of the sixteenth century as a precursor, particularly in his preludes, of early Baroque style. It is useful to remember how lutenists were among the first from the first years of the sixteenth century to achieve a high degree of musical richness, technical maturity and refinement. As a result the lute came to be considered the principal instrument. Its use was widespread throughout all social and intellectual classes, its development comparable with that of the piano in the nineteenth century. Lorenzino's music must be considered valuable testimony to the high level of virtuosity achieved by lutenists of the Renaissance. Among the few items of information on Lorenzino's life, we know that he was born in Rome, probably around 1552. Francesco Tracetti, his father, was not Italian but gallus belgicus and was a cantor in the Roman Church of San Lorenzo in Damaso. We know that Francesco had at least three sons, Lorenzo, Innocenzo (also a musician) and Giovanni Angelo. During his artistic training, Lorenzino knew Johannes Matelart (maestro di cappella of S. Lorenzo in Damaso and composer of the Intavolatura per Liuto, Roma 1559), and Vincenzo Pinti (who was to become known as the Knight of the Lute) who worked in the same palace for Cardinal Alessandro Farnese from 1563 to 1570. His active career began very early, since in 1570 he was already held in high regard as a lutenist and contended for by nobles and cardinals. He was described in the letters of Annibale Cappello and Francesco Follonica as "a natural prodigy in that profession for his age". From 1570 to 1572 Lorenzino worked for Cardinal Ippolito II at the Villa d'Este, at Tivoli, near Rome. He died prematurely on 20 July 1590 in a Roman alley where he lived with his wife, Lucrezia Paolini. At that time the alley was nameless and known as the alley "ut dicitur after The Bear". The reference is to the famous old Bear Inn situated in a street that still today bears its name. The lane just "after The Bear", today is called "Vicolo del Leuto" (Lute Alley), probably because of an inn that took its name from the lutenist's reputation. According to Elias Assaeus (Thesaurus Harmonicus divini Laurencini romani, by Jean-Baptiste Besard, Cologne, 1603), Lorenzino was awarded the knighthood of the Golden Spur (Speron d'Oro), a high honour that was conferred also on Orlandus Lassus and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. There seem to be extant about seventy pieces by Lorenzino, preserved in seven prints and at least sixteen manuscripts. The excerpts here performed come from the above-mentioned collection by Besard, with the exception of the Passomezo, which comes from Georg Leopold Fuhrmann's book Testudo Gallo-germanica (Nürnberg, 1615). All the excerpts are very complex, both from a musical and instrumental point of view. An atmosphere of melancholy and a highly refined poeticism pervade Lorenzino's art. The technical difficulty, that stretches the physical limits of the lute, is never an end in itself, but is always put to the service of different expressive needs, adding to the elegance of the phrases and the musical thought. Each piece brings thematic growth, richness of ideas and contrasting episodes that involve all the instrumental registers, from the lowest to the highest. Expressive and formal freedom reigns in the preludes, arising from the sound itself and from the affects generated by the various harmonies. The pieces evolve through a succession of polyphonic-imitative episodes and improvisatory figuration, anticipating the style of the seventeenth-century toccata. The fantasies are also conceived with alternating episodes often of contrasting character and motion, but the writing is mainly contrapuntal and the polyphonic complexity frequently dissolves into faster passages before reaching the concluding episodes, which are more affirmative and reassuring. Among Lorenzino's artistic achievements tablatures of vocal polyphonic compositions by other composers must be mentioned. In their complex and virtuosic writing, these 'madrigal variations' bring out and amplify the original idea of the composer and the spirit of the work itself: the wide-range of the phrases develops into an alternation of varied passages and interesting counterpoint. In the dances Lorenzino frees himself from the simple choreographic usage and offers complex and highly articulated pieces. In the Branle, fast and continuous diminutions on chord progressions prevail, while in the Gagliarde there emerge a rhythmic variety and a high degree of technical difficulty. Finally, in the long Passomezo (a dance made up of variations on a repeated harmonic base, in which the sections are easily recognisable from the suspensions and fast scales that separate them), Lorenzino provides expressive unity between the different sections and, through a refined interweaving of polyphonic elements that increase in intensity, he creates a formal unity, which makes this work highly impressive. Marco Pesci
Translation by Shawn Kholucy  
Item number 8570165
Barcode 747313016570
Release date 07/01/2006
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Artists Pesci, Marco
Pesci, Marco
Composers Palestrina, Giovanni Pierluigi da
Lassus, Orlande de
Rore, Cipriano de
Liuto, Lorenzino del
Rore, Cipriano de
Palestrina, Giovanni Pierluigi da
Liuto, Lorenzino del
Lassus, Orlande de
Disc: 1
Ancor che col partire (arr. for lute)
1 Prelude
2 Fantasia
3 Galliard
4 Prelude
5 Fantasia
6 Vestiva i colli (arr. for lute)
7 Cosi le chiome (arr. for lute)
8 Branle
9 Prelude
10 Passomezo
11 Prelude
12 Susanne un jour (arr. for lute)
13 Galliard
14 Prelude
15 Fantasia
16 Galliard
17 Ancor che col partire (arr. for lute)
18 Prelude
19 Fantasia
20 Prelude
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