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The Attaingnant Project

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For the five or six years up to the middle of 2001, my musical focus was on the preparation of baroque lute versions of the Bach violin Sonatas and Partitas. The recording came out in early 2000, and I played this repertoire almost exclusively during the Bach year, and the first six months of 2001. Then it was time for something completely different.

I had wanted to get back to the Renaissance lute for some time and had always had a hunch that there was much more to the Attaingnant publications of 1529 and 1530 than the few pieces that almost every lute player knows. I decided to concentrate on this repertoire for a while and see what I could do to resuscitate some of the pieces that had tuneful elements but weren't otherwise immediately accessible. A new 6-course bass lute from Joel van Lennep enlivened the search.

The result is a program recorded in November 2001 and released in June 2002. The two collections edited by Attaingnant (he composed none of them himself) contain Preludes, chanson intabulations and a wide variety of dance music, – all together more than 100 pieces for solo lute. The challenge with some of the chansons and many of the dances was to bring them to life in a creative and dynamic way. The former often had somewhat perfunctory diminutions, and the latter were often so short, that one couldn't image dancers really getting into the music before it was already over.

By playing these pieces again and again during a period of some months, I came up with some interesting new old versions. I added my own diminutions for some of the chansons often going back to the three- or four voice originals, and with some of the branles and haulberroys, I slowly arrived at elaborations and extensions which I think remain true to the melodic and rhythmic spirit of the originals and at the same time release them from a kind of enigmatic historic limbo. It was refreshing as well to be immersed in a repertoire at least partly inspired by popular music. The work was extremely rewarding and the response to the recording (ASTRÉE-naïve E 8854) has been gratifying.

Hopkinson SMITH

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    1. BRANSLE DE POICTOU - download in MP3 format (4.14Mb)


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