D & E Gaultier • Losy • Gallot • Corelli • Reusner • de Visée

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Corelli,D & E Gaultier,Gallot,Losy,Reusner & de Visée
LABELS: Vanguard
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: The Golden Age of the French Lute
WORKS: Works
PERFORMER: Stephen Stubbs (lute)
CATALOGUE NO: 99197

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Stephen Stubbs’s booklet note attributes the obscurity of this repertoire to it being an evolutionary dead-end, so instrument-specific that it could not survive in any other form, and composed by a plethora of little-known composers. His performance is much more persuasive. He gathers the short pieces into groups unified by key, creating, as did their original performers, extended suites – a Prélude and half a dozen dances. Lute technique is challenging, one hand alone plucking textures seemingly as dense as those for keyboard, and Stubbs is master of his instrument. He pushes it to its tonal limits with bold fortes, strong contrasts and accents which tend to leap out at you, exaggerated by rather intimate recording. The juxtaposition of several composers throws up some interesting impressions. The father of the French school of lutenists, Ennemond Gaultier, appears markedly more assured and harmonically purposeful than his more famous nephew, Denis – compare the older Gaultier’s delightful ‘Canaries’ with the younger’s meandering Sarabande. Among some charming character pieces (Jacques Gallot’s ‘The Village Wedding’) and one astonishing transcription (a Corelli trio sonata movement), the Suite which ends the disc, by the Count of Losinthal, a Bohemian nobleman, is particularly attractive – its Gavotte haunts me still.

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George Pratt