Hopkinson Smith, lute

Friday, December 04, 2015 - 8:00 PM
American Philosophical Society

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About This Performance

A leading personality in the field of early music, Hopkinson Smith is “without doubt the finest lute player in the world today” (San Francisco Chronicle). Since his early collaborations with Jordi Savall and the early music ensemble Hesperion XX, he has focused principally on solo music for early plucked instruments. His program, Jewels of Elizabethan Lute Music, conjures the English golden age of the 16th and 17th centuries, with an emphasis on the music of John Dowland, the “English Orpheus” and chief glory and ornament of the Elizabethan lute.

Jewels of Elizabethan Lute Music: Works by Dowland, Holborne, Johnson and Byrd

John Dowland, though also a sprightly and humorous composer, is most famous for the darker side of his character and the pervading melancholy that nourished his unquiet soul.  But he was in no way the inventor of highly charged melodic poignancy in solo lute music.  Two important composers of the generation of English lutenists that preceded him clearly show signs of great invention including moments of tormented yearnings which led to music of extraordinary depth.  John Johnson (died in 1594) and Anthony Holborne (died in 1602) were the most prominent lutenists to remain in England during the Elizabethan period (Dowland spent many years on the Continent).  Their œuvre contains rhapsodic Pavans of lyrical intensity and richness of harmony, spirited Galliards, striking character pieces and elaborate variations.  They were both virtuosos of the highest calibre as the daring of their diminution techniques attests.  This program will highlight theirs and Dowland’s works in an evening of masterpieces from the 1580s and 90s.