11-course lute after Martin Hofmann

11-course lute after Martin Hofmann, 1690’s, both by Clive Titmuss

EMS_LUTE - 06_sm EMS_LUTE - 07_sm EMS_LUTE - 08_sm

In order to underscore the contrast between the minor and major-key suites by Reusner, I chose to play the works on two very different lutes with very different sonority and stringing. The minor key pieces are played on my copy (1998) of a wide-bodied, flat-backed multi-rib instrument, made of yew wood and strung entirely in gut (Savarez and Dan Larson), modelled on an mid-17th century Italian lute made in Venice by Pietro Raillich. It’s a transitional instrument, with 15 shade yew ribs and a fairly short string length. It’s overtone-rich colour and wide neck make it technically and musically well suited to the introverted, intense character and low-pitched tessitura of the writing. For this recording I used a higher pitch, a 435 Hz.

The major-key works are played on a large-bodied, nine maple rib instrument, my copy (1987) of a lute designed originally for 11 courses (later enlarged to a theorbo-lute) by Martin Hofmann, a German maker of the late 17th century, working in Leipzig. (See the notes on the 14-course theorbo-lute for more.)

Both original lutes are currently housed in the Nuremburg museum, where they made a great impression on me when I visited and viewed them. The Hofmann is strung with a mixture of modern carbon-fibre strings (harp string diapasons and monofilament octaves) and gut playing strings. The neo-Renaissance design is characterized by a rich bass and a more strident timbre, with less string noise and a less registered sound than the Raillich. It serves the extroverted and sunny temperament of the major-key pieces very well. With its longer string length, I used a pitch of a 415 Hz.

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