Review by Judith Caldwell
Hammer Baroque presented lutenist Lucas Harris in a recital titled “Circa 1600” on Saturday afternoon. In his opening remarks Bud Roach, the organization’s artistic director said that he is always surprised that so many people come out on a holiday weekend to hear early music. The feeling among musicians apparently is that the earlier the music – the fewer audience members it attracts. In Hamilton, however, a reasonable number turned up.
Harris said he chose 1600 because that is approximately when the lute went from the previous five courses of strings to 6 then 7 giving the composers and players more bass notes.
This was a time of transition in lute music. To demonstrate this Harris played a selection of tunes from various places in Europe. The Italian section featured intricate, but languid music with some moments of drama. France featured an entabulation called ‘Suzanne un jour’ which had some jazz-like improvisations.
The Low Countries dispensed with the frills and had simple tunes with lovely chording overlays. This was thoughtful, pleasant music during a meal. England was in dance mood although some of the changing tempi would make that challenging. The tunes were reminiscent of folk music and the final piece in that set was by John Dowling and it showed why he is the best known English composer of the period. His music was interesting and fun.
The German music presented was intricate and precise with fewer improvisations. Finally there were seven short pieces from Scotland and they were in turn lilting and lively, one could imagine reels being danced to them. The set also included a lament and ended with a country dance tune. A lively end to a concert of music written 400 years ago. Hammer Baroque’s next concert is on November 9th at The Rock on Locke.