Madrigal accompaniment - Lute or guitar?

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nolinesbarred
Posts: 78
Joined: 30 Sep 2008 01:35
Location: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Madrigal accompaniment - Lute or guitar?

Postby nolinesbarred » 29 Jul 2009 23:00

As lutes seem rather thin on the ground in this neck of the woods, I am wondering if anyone here has used the guitar as an accompaniment for madrigals? Is the guitar a suitable/acceptable substitute? Why/why not? Your comments would be appreciated.

nolinesbarred

Robert Urmann
Posts: 19
Joined: 10 Jan 2009 01:40
Location: Leipzig, Germany

Re: Madrigal accompaniment - Lute or guitar?

Postby Robert Urmann » 02 Aug 2009 01:16

Seems that there is no other alternative?

But why shouldn't we use the guitar as the direct descendant of the lute? You can tune guitars in lute scale, and you may use different strings to approach the typical sound. Guitars are also more powerful and easier to play. Give it a try, and if it's not what you expect grab a lute!

All best wishes,
Robert

Cdalitz
Posts: 142
Joined: 24 Apr 2007 14:42

Re: Madrigal accompaniment - Lute or guitar?

Postby Cdalitz » 02 Aug 2009 11:42

When looking for a lute player, I would recommend to contact the lute society of your country, which certainly can name a few lute players nearby.

What kind of "madrigals" do you think of? "Prima Prattica" (polyphonic (mostly) five part settings), "Seconda Prattica" (few soloists with virtuoso parts and figured bass accompaniment), English "Lute Songs" (four part settings with written out lute accompaniment in tablature), or French 16th century "Chansons"?

Concerning "prima prattica" madrigals and French "chansons", the lute part is optional and typically plays a highly embellished version of the four or five part polyphony. This sounds breathtaking when done well, but when you have many singers, the lute will hardly be heard. Replacing a lute player with a guitar player typically leads to the problem that he is not familiar with embellishments like groppo etc. and will play them in a "telephone ring" way which spoils the entire music. As the lute part is only ad libitum for "prima prattica" madrigals, you might simply consider leaving it away when no lute player is at hand.

Concerning "seconda prattica" madrigals, a "lute" must be an "archlute" or (preferably) "theorbo" (also known as "chitarrone"). As a theorbo is much louder than a guitar or lute, replacing it with a guitar might be problematic, even though it is possible. An obvious alternative is to let the figured bass be played on an organ positive (though that is less portable than a theorbo). Incidentally, the combination of both (organ and theorbo) is in my humble opinion the most beatiful way to realize figured bass in early baroque music (i.e pre 1670). If your madrigals only have a figured bass realized in theorbo tablature (the only examples I am aware of are two madrigal books by Salomone Rossi and Flamminio Corradi), you can easily extract a figured bass line from the bottom voice of the theorbo part.

Concerning English lute songs, the lute part is usually a "lute reduction" of the lower three parts that is meant as an optional replacement for them so that the song can also be sung with a solo voice and lute accompaniment. The same also applies to a chanson book printed by Attaignant ("Tres breve et familiar introduction ...") which brings four part chansons in a version for solo voice and lute. While the lute parts in Dowland's song books occasionally add obvious simple embellishments at cadences, there are none of the breathtaking diminuitions as can be found in lute accompaniments to "prima prattica" madrigals, so the lute is only ad libitum when you sing the song in four parts. If you want to alternate stanzas sung in four and less parts, the lute becomes essential of course, but when no lute player is available, it can also be replaced with a guitar. When the guitar player tunes the third course to f# instead of g, and places a capo in the third fret, he can play directly form the lute tablature.

Hope this helps,

Christoph

nolinesbarred
Posts: 78
Joined: 30 Sep 2008 01:35
Location: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Re: Madrigal accompaniment - Lute or guitar?

Postby nolinesbarred » 03 Aug 2009 01:19

Thank you for your replies. Thanks especially to Christoph for his detailed and most informative reply. Truly appreciated. We are a small ensemble of eight amateur singers and the few madrigals we are singing are mainly English: Dowland, Robert Jones, Thomas Weelkes, Thomas Bateson, etc. It's a musical genre about which we know little but are hoping to become more knowledgeable, so your interesting reply will be stored away for ongoing reference Christoph. (You are obviously a very knowledgeable musician - we still have a lot to learn).

Cdalitz
Posts: 142
Joined: 24 Apr 2007 14:42

Re: Madrigal accompaniment - Lute or guitar?

Postby Cdalitz » 29 Aug 2009 17:47

Dear nolinesbarred,

as an example what I meant with an embellished lute part for "prima prattica" madrigals or French "chansons", I have posted an edition of a 16th century "hit" with an embellished lute accompaniment:

http://music.dalitio.de/choir/sermisy/le-content/

Once you have sung it with an accompanying lute, you will miss something without the lute...

Christoph


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