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Early Music


Here are some more of the interviews I did when I was writing for GI and CG:

Barry Mason (lutenist & baroque guitarist) (1985)

Anthony Rooley (lutenist) (1988)

Robert Spencer (lutenist) (1988)

Guitar Transcriptions of Lute Music

Anon: Kemp’ Jig

This was one of the first transcriptions I ever did, which puts it in the early ’60s.

The first time I heard Julian Bream play the lute I was, like many other people, amazed. It was a whole new world of music, and he played it with an élan and vitality that, in my view, have never been surpassed.

In particular, I loved this piece from the first Consort album; but I didn’t like the classical guitar arrangements that I’d seen. So I transcribed it from the tablature, and then bodged it to correspond to Bream’s version. This is in “Rondeña” tuning (DADF#BE)

Kemp’s Jig YouTube Buy CD ?

Henry VIII: Pastyme

One of the first books of lute music I bought was the excellent Lessons for the Lute, by Anthony Bailes and Anne van Royen. And one of the first pieces in it was an intabulation of the famous song by Henry VIII, A Pastyme with Good Companie, quite easy and a lot of fun. So I transcribed it into staff notation, which I found easier to read.

A couple of decades later, Paul O’Dette recorded the piece with a lot of extra divisions he’d invented. So I transcribed those too, and tacked them on the end.

A Pastyme YouTube Buy CD Buy MP3

Robert Johnson: The Carman’s Whistle

And I loved this piece from Julian Bream’s very first RCA lute album; but there was no sheet music for classical guitar. So I got hold of the tablature, and painstakingly transcribed it. Only when I had finished did I realise that he plays another version, with slightly different variations.

It’s still a beautiful piece, though, whichever version you play.

The are three voices in this work, which makes them hard to decipher on a single stave in black-and-white; so, exceptionally, I’ve printed this one in colour.

The Carman’s Whistle YouTube Buy CD Buy MP3

Francesco da Milano: Fantasia, N. 40

Julian Bream’s The Woods So Wild was yet another pioneering recording that (among other things) was instrumental in reviving interest in Francesco da Milano and his miniature masterpieces of counterpoint.

My particular favourite on the album was this one, for which I once again found the tablature in Lessons for the Lute.

This is another one printed in colour.

Unknown to me at the time I did my transcription, Arthur Ness had produced a magnificent two-volume collection of the complete The Lute Music of Francesco; but Harvard University Press has allowed it to go out of print, which is extremely unfortunate.

Francesco—Fantasia N.40 YouTube Buy CD Buy MP3