There's enough colour for a sense of duetting between instruments, and that's quite apart from the Dowland piece for two players on one lute, in which Göran Söllscher takes both parts. Four separate sets of Dowland include some of his perkiest pieces and two of his most searching: "Semper Dowland semper dolens", and the doom-laden descents and fierce resolution of "Forlorn Hope Fance". Between times it's a tour of Europe's finest. The guitar imitates a vihuela imitating a harp courtesy of the Spanish composer Alonso Mudarra, shows off Francesco da Milano's fine counterpoint in a Ricercare, and dwells unusually in Germany where the expressive "Wer gnad durch klaff" by Arnolt Schlick is a highlight. Söllscher's concentrated, serene and deft playing supplies the defining character, recorded close but discreetly.
Record Review /
BBC Music Magazine (London) / 01. November 2005
Söllscher manages to imbue his playing with the two conditions to which all great art should aspire -- clarity and mystery. No mean feat, given the modest nature of some of the material. How does he achieve this? By combining a historically informed attitude with a critical awareness that he is in fact a recreative artist looking back, with a certain wistful nostalgia perhaps, to a time that's very much a part of our collective subconscious . . . Söllscher shows how a sensitive and intelligent musician can use a modern guitar to encourage rather than restrict the listener's imagination.
Record Review /
Gramophone (London) / 01. January 2006
A smooth, relaxed playing style, crisp articulation and a tone balancing sweet and dry (perfect for this repertoire) ensures a clarity of projection that allows the listener to grasp the essentials of each piece while ensuring ample space for fantasy to work its magic.
Record Review /
International Record Review (London) / 01. February 2006
. . . Söllscher se imbuye del espíritu de una época y con destreza resalta el colorido de cada pieza, sabiendo adaptarse a las características distintivas de cada escuela y país. Evocador.
Record Review /
Melómano (Madrid) / 01. December 2005
Söllscher nos ofrece una visión amplia y estéticamente ajustada de los pilares más importantes del período . . . con versiones nítidas, de claro contrapunto y llenas de bellos recursos musicales.
Record Review /
Paulino García Blanco,
Ritmo (Madrid) / 01. February 2006
Göran Söllscher plays Renaissance Music
This recording pays homage to the late Per-Olof Johnson, the Swedish guitarist who was Göran Söllscher's teacher and inspiration. Johnson's importance in stimulating guitar players (and listeners) to explore the rich repertoire of music for the lute and the vihuela cannot be emphasized enough. In order to perform this music as faithfully as possible to (and often straight from) the original lute tablature, in the 1960s Johnson together with the Swedish guitar-maker Georg Bolin developed the alto guitar, an eleven-string instrument, with the six highest strings tuned like a Renaissance lute, five bass strings tuned diatonically, and a shorter string length than the classical guitar's. For the classical guitarist this instrument unlocks a huge repertoire of attractive music from the 16th to 18th centuries, as Göran Söllscher demonstrates in his interpretations on this disc.
The first printed lute tablature books were published in Italy as early as 1507, and during the entire 16th century the Italian lutenists as well as their music had a powerful influence on the rest of Europe. Italian lute music dominated both in quality and in quantity. Many Italian lutenists were employed at foreign courts, for example Alberto da Ripa, who earned his living in Paris. However, "Il divino" Francesco da Milano was the most important and best known of them all. His music and, above all, his fantasias and ricercares are found in many sources outside of Italy. Francesco was a great improviser, and the profound effect his playing had on listeners is well documented by his contemporaries. Simone Molinaro and his Intavolatura di liuto, published in 1599, mark the end of a glorious century of Italian lute music. One of Molinaro’s finest and most popular pieces, the Ballo detto “Il Conte Orlando", was arranged for orchestra by Ottorino Respighi in his first set of Antiche danze ed arie per liuto, published in 1917.
Lute music was also published in southern Germany (as well as in Hungary and Austria) in the first decades of the 16th century. During this period the Humanist movement inspired a pedagogical aim in the German lute composers. Arnolt Schlick, whose tablature book Tabulaturen etlicher lobgesang und lidlein, was published as early as 1512, and Hans Neusidler produced fine examples of this combination of pedagogical ambition with straightforward but first-rate and occasionally powerful music.
The foremost Spanish vihuelists of the 16th century were Alonso Mudarra, Luys Milán and Luys de Narvéz. Their music was mainly published in printed tablature books; very little is found in manuscript sources. Most of the vihuela books are also pedagogical works, and Luys Milán attaches to each piece a short description of relevant technical matters. His Fantasía de consonancias y redobles eloquently demonstrates how well this pedagogical ambition can be incorporated in music of high quality. Alonso Mudarra's famous fantasia, "which imitates the harp in the manner of Ludovico", is a rare example of the imitation of another instrument and sounds modern in its use of dissonance. Luys de Narvéz's Canción del Emperador is a good example of the much-loved tradition of transcribing vocal works for a plucked instrument and his Quatro diferencias shows him as perhaps the first master of the variation.
France is less well represented by lute music from the 16th century and it is not really until the 17th that French lutenists achieved significant European influence. The four attractive Branles de village by the prolific Robert Ballard, with their suggestive drone bass evoking the rustic hurdy-gurdy or bagpipe, date from the beginning of the 17th century and were published in 1614. Ballard belonged to an important family of music publishers, and his music already has one foot in a new and increasingly successful tradition, one in which French lutenists would soon occupy the forefront.
England contributed little to the development of the lute in the first part of the 16th century, but beginning with the Elizabethan era musical creativity seems to have exploded among its madrigalists, virginalists and lutenists. The "golden age" of English lute music lasted from about 1580 to 1610 and yielded a large body of music of superb quality - ambitious and complex works as well as popular dance and song pieces. Peter Philips's fame rests on his vocal and instrumental music, though there is no proof that he actually composed for the lute. Many of his works, however, were transcribed for the lute, as was common practice in the 16th century. His joyful, sad and magnificent Chromatic Pavan and Galliard is a good example of the successful translation of music from one instrument to another. Antony Holborne was not only a lutenist, but also composed for (and probably played) both cittern and bandora, two metal-strung plucked instruments much used in consort music of the period. Holborne's music is both polyphonic and melodious, with great rhythmic variety.
John Dowland was the outstanding lute composer of the Elizabethan period and, perhaps, of the entire Renaissance. He embodies the "golden age" of English lute music. His musical output was vast and varied, and he moved freely between the genres of his time, from straightforward tunes to complex works of the utmost magnificence. Among his most famous compositions for the solo lute are his chromatic fantasias, and perhaps the greatest of these is his Forlorn Hope Fancy, a work of strong emotion that can deeply move its listeners. It is among the most striking pieces in the entire lute repertoire. But Dowland also composed many smaller pieces, joyful, enchanting and appealing, often dedicated to noblemen. This programme concludes with one of the most sensual (and unusual) pieces written for the lute: Dowland's My Lord Chamberlain his Galliard, to be performed by two players on a single lute. The visual effect of this work, possibly designed to be played by a seated woman with a man standing behind and embracing her in order to be able to execute the second part, must have been quite remarkable .