During the Renaissance in Italy, solo music for the lute was considered one of the most refined expressions of the musical arts. Virtuoso players and composers for this instrument were often considered state, or even national treasures. For example, several of the pieces on this recording are by the Italian lutenist/composer Francesco da Milano (1486-1534). Known as "Il divino" in his own lifetime, Francesco captured a sense of musical balance and proportion in his fantasias and ricercares, which is mirrored in the artwork of contemporary painters, such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael.
From almost out of nowhere, lute tablature (a system of musical notation specific to the lute) seems to have sprung fully formed from the Renaissance presses of the Venetian printer Ottaviano Petrucci. Prior to Petrucci’s lute publications from the first years of the 16th-century, only fragments of lute tablature remain. A true musical connoisseur, Petrucci published works by northern Italy’s finest lutenists, including Francesco Spinacino and Joan Ambrosio Dalza, both heard on this recording.
Included on this recording is music from the Vincenzo Capirola Lute Book,an Italian manuscript compiled around 1517. Capirola was an Italian lute virtuoso of great renown, whose music is set stylistically between the first polyphonic lute compositions published by Petrucci and the music of Francesco da Milano and his circle composing in the 1520's and 30’s. The Capirola collection is one of the earliest manuscript sources of music for the solo Renaissance lute and the manuscript is itself a visual work of art. Filled with colorful forest animals and country folk penned about the borders of each page, the artist Vidal was a practical soul who notes in the he preface of the book,
"...I have adorned [the manuscript] with such noble paintings, so that if it should be owned by somebody with no knowledge in [the musical field], he would keep it for the beauty of the pictures..."
Almost nothing is known of the life of the 16th century lutenist and composer Giovanni Maria da Crema. His solo lute music is of a very high quality and his stature as a lutenist must surely have been significant in his own day. His work appears in two mid-sixteenth century prints that include music by Francesco Il divino. Of the lutenist/composers represented on this recording, Francesco da Milano is surely the most eminent, though all of these diversi autori enjoyed great renown during their lifetimes.
P.R. January 2003
Phillip Rukavina has performed widely as a lute and vihuela soloist, ensemble performer, and as a continuo lutenist. He studied lute with Hopkinson Smith at the Academie Musical in Villecroze, France and in Basel, Switzerland. He regularly teaches on the faculty of the Lute Society of America's summer seminars in Cleveland, Ohio and directed the event in 2008. He has released two solo recordings on the Studio395 label. Phillip is a founding member of the Venere Lute Quartet. He is a frequent guest instrumentalist with the Rose Ensemble and with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.