Suite in F major by Esias Reusner
Reusner's manuscript lutebook, Delititiae Testitudinis (Delights of the Lute, 1667) is, aside from it purely musical quality, an important work historically. Because it contains a compendium of Suites organized by keys in order of the cycle of fifths, each key represented (with exceptions) by a suite both major and minor, the work might be considered to be a forerunner of Bach's two-volume Well-Tempered Clavier (1722, 1744). In Reusner's book only one key is favored with three suites, and it is F major. Of the three, the one I have chosen seems to be the most concise and combines quiet assurance and nostalgic melancholy. The Allemanda exploits a favorite device, descent into the baritone followed by a flowering into the upper reaches of the lute's range. Each phrase brings new details and rich ornamentation which make simple means expressive and gives life to material that would seem empty in the hands of a lesser composer. The elaborate explorations of the Allemanda and Couranta give way to simplicity in the bare chords of the Sarabanda, inventively orchestrated by rhythmic ingenuity. The Gavotte and Gigue are written in open and direct chorale-style, but coloured with a great variety of texture and rhythm.
Surveying all of the Reusner suites, the listener is struck by his understanding of the balance between counterpoint and homophony, bare and plain texture and elaborate ornamentation characteristic of the lute, the sure sense of suspension and forward movement, melodic inspiration, and his unfailing ability to orchestrate phrases and cadences with interesting details.
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