Walter Bitner

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“To Attain So Excellent A Science”: John Dowland, Part I

There is no known attributed portrait of John Dowland. This miniature of an unidentified subject, painted by Isaac Oliver (c1565-1617) now in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London was suggested as a possible likeness by Roger Traversac in The Lute Society’s PDF Colour Supplement to LUTE NEWS no. 116, December 2015. “Anno Domini 1590 . . . 27th year of his age” describes this man as the correct age for Dowland, who was born in 1563. (click images to enlarge)

The Lute Part XIV

…happy they that in hell
feel not the world’s despite.

~ John Dowland
Flow, my tears

The English musician John Dowland (1563 – 1626) is the central figure in the history of the lute. Composer, lutenist, songwriter, translator, publisher, traveler, academic – four centuries later, Dowland appears larger than life, and in many ways his dreams and accomplishments eclipse those of his contemporaries. Yet Dowland was very much a man of his own time, and his ideals and struggles reflected the concerns, crises, and aspirations of the Elizabethans even as his music expresses universals that resonate deeply with musicians and audiences today.

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Simone Molinaro

Title page, Simone Molinaro: Intavolatura di Liuto Libro Primo, Venezia 1599 (click images to enlarge)

The Lute Part XVII

Simone Molinaro (c 1570 – 1636) was the leading musician in Genoa when the Most Serene Republic was at its height of wealth and power. In the early decades of the seventeenth century, he served Genoa first as maestro di cappella at the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, then as court musician and eventually maestro di cappella di Palazzo – the chapel of the ducal palace. Molinaro was the most prolific and highly esteemed composer in the Genoa Republic, and published many volumes of his own works as well as anthologies and collections of compositions by his contemporaries, including the first printing in score of Gesualdo’s five books of five- and six-voice madrigals.

In addition to being a composer and chapel master, Simone Molinaro was a lutenist, and in 1599 published one of the most highly esteemed volumes of music for the lute to appear during the Renaissance.

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Blair School of Music: Adult Summer Chamber Music Institute 2019

Adult Summer Chamber Music Institute 2018, Blair School of Music, Vanderbilt University, Nashville

 

For the third year in a row Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music will host the  Adult Summer Chamber Music Institute in July. The only program of its kind in our area, this four-day celebration of chamber music brings together adult amateur string players with some of the finest string music educators in Nashville. It’s an exciting opportunity for chamber music enthusiasts that continues to grow in popularity and program offerings each year:

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The 2019 Schermerhorn Invitational Choral Festival

The Nashville Symphony presents The Third Annual Schermerhorn Invitational Choral Festival, Dr. Tucker Biddlecombe, director. March 25, 2019. (click images to enlarge)

 

On Monday, March 25, 2019 the Nashville Symphony was thrilled to host The Third Annual Schermerhorn Invitational Choral Festival at the hall under the direction of Dr. Tucker Biddlecombe, Director of the Nashville Symphony Chorus and Director of Choral Activities at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music. Six choirs from Middle Tennessee public high schools gathered for a day of music making with each other and Nashville Symphony musicians, which culminated in a performance for family and friends at the end of the afternoon.

A wonderful time was had by all!

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Bach on the Lute: 70 Years of Recordings, Part I

Smith, Hopkinson, 1981-82/1987. Johann Sebastian Bach: L’œvre de Luth. Auvidis E 7721. AAD (2 CDs) ~ click images to enlarge

The Lute Appendix iii c

Just in time for Sebastian’s birthday (March 21 or 31, depending on your calendar preference): here is an overview of recordings of his music performed on the lute. While perhaps not complete, I believe that the major recordings that have been released on compact disc are described or at least acknowledged here, and many others besides. (Lute performances available on CD are nearly the only recordings considered here.) I trust that members of the lute community won’t hesitate to let me know what I have missed!

Most of the compact disc recordings referred to in this article (and many more besides) are listed in the discography to this series.

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BACHanalia 2019

click images to enlarge

 

Nashville’s 13th annual Bach festival – our beloved BACHanalia – will be held:

Friday, March 29, 2019 from 4 – 10 pm
Christ Church Cathedral
900 Broadway in downtown Nashville.

This event is one of the highlights of the musical year in Music City.

A broad spectrum of musicians from our unique community come together at this time each year to present this one-of-a-kind six-hour concert-without-pause devoted to Sebastian’s music, generously hosted by our friends at the cathedral in their beautiful sanctuary.

For the last several years I’ve had the privilege of learning of the program and schedule ahead of the event and voila! here it is. It’s hard to believe a whole year has gone by.

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Ravel

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) ~ click images to enlarge

Today is March 7, the birthday of French composer Maurice Ravel. I remembered this because last night I was reading Jean Echenoz’s terrific biographical novel – unsurprisingly titled Ravel – and came across the passage in Chapter Five when the protagonist celebrates his fifty-third birthday with a big crowd in New York that includes George Gershwin, who played The Man I Love for him.

Although perhaps not a constant presence, Ravel’s music has been an important and recurring strand in the web of my musical life.

Do you like Ravel? I think it’s interesting that we understand this question to mean “Do you like Ravel’s music?”, as if the man and the music he wrote were the same thing.

I’ve never met anyone who admitted that they didn’t like Ravel’s music.

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Curb Concerto Competition Finalists 2019

2019 Curb Concerto Competition Finalists: (l to r) Jaime Kim, Luke Turner, Jocelyn Hartley ~ photos by Kathleen Munkel (click to enlarge)

 

As we have done each winter for more than twenty years, the Nashville Symphony hosted our annual Curb Concerto Competition for students ages 14-18 last month.

The first round of the competition took place on Saturday, Februrary 23 before a panel of Nashville Symphony musicians who selected three finalists. These three young soloists then proceeded to the finals round which was adjudicated by a different panel that took place the following afternoon, February 24. This year’s winner will perform with the Nashville Symphony at the annual Side By Side Concert with Curb Youth Symphony on May 7. The 2019 Side By Side Concert will be conducted by Nashville Symphony Assistant Conductor Enrico Lopez-Yańez.

Nineteen superlative young musicians from across Tennessee and beyond competed in this year’s competition: 6 flute players, 4 violinists, 3 pianists, 2 clarinetists, 2 saxophonists, and one student each on cello and bassoon. Both rounds took place on the stage of Laura Turner Hall at Schermerhorn Symphony Center.

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SphinxConnect 2019

 

At the end of January I traveled to Detroit, Michigan to attend the largest and most impactful event of its kind: the 7th annual Sphinx conference “SphinxConnect” and the the 22nd annual Sphinx Competition. This is the fourth year in a row that I spent the first weekend of February in Detroit! and it was the third year in which I was engaged to be a speaker.

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The Golden Age of English Lute Music

Elizabeth I playing the lute by Nicolas Hilliard, c. 1580 ~ Berkeley Castle, Berkeley, Gloucestershire, UK (click images to enlarge)

The Lute Part XIII

The reign of Queen Elizabeth I – an astounding 45 years from 1558 to 1603 – is often referred to as the Golden Age of English history. The long rule of the Virgin Queen brought momentous advances for England: colonization of the New World and circumnavigation of the globe by English privateers, the dramatic defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, Elizabeth and her advisors’ miraculous achievement of reestablishing and maintaining a Protestant state for nearly fifty years in the face of continental Catholic opposition.

England brought forth an artistic and cultural flowering under Queen Elizabeth – most famously in the development of the theatre and the work of the playwright William Shakespeare, whom she patronized. Music, too, flourished during the Golden Age: English musicians were renowned not only at home but abroad for their excellence and virtuosity, and the Queen herself not only patronized court musicians, she played the lute herself.

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