• jozef van wissem A Rose By Any Other Name (CD, £13.25)

    label: Incunabulum

    A beautifully played collection of anonymous lute compositions from the late 16th century, A Rose by Any Other Name is by turns buoyant and melancholic, capturing the lightness of early Western European folk dances with the same ease that it recreates the burgeoning atmosphere of religious anxiety and redemption that also characterized the period. Van Wissem's performances exhibit an appropriately virtuosic sense of restraint, even in passages that require his considerable technical powers on the instrument. The late 16th and early 17th centuries, known as the "Golden Age" of English lute music, a period that produced a repertoire of nearly 2000 pieces of music that have survived to this day. At the height of its popularity, the lute was the ubiquitous instrument of choice for composers and amateurs alike, though, towards the end of the 16th century, as composing and performing music came to be regarded more and more as a profession considered below the dignity of noblemen and women, many composers often members of the nobility tended towards composing on condition of anonymity. Other manuscripts from the Golden Age bear no name simply because the scribes didn't feel it necessary to write down the names of popular composers whose pieces would be immediately recognizable at the time. Anonymity is an interesting curatorial condition, and it lends even the lightest of these compositions a sense of mystery and nostalgia. A Rose is Van Wissem's most "historical" album; his performances are consistently satisfying and steeped in a knowledge that is as intellectual as it is musical.

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