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GRAMOPHONE (06/2022)
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Reviewer :
David Fallows

Michal Gondko here plays the so-called ‘Presbyter’ lute that seems to be from the 16th century: at least it has a label inside with the date 1595, and its proportions appear to match what we know about Italian lutes before then. It was once owned by the English lutenist Robert Spencer (d1997), then by the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, and now by the Swiss lutenist Andreas Schlegel, who loaned it to Gondko for use in this recording. It has been many times restored: when Spencer owned it there were eight courses, then the neck was shortened, then it was turned into a 10-course instrument, and after the latest restoration (1996) it has seven courses. Certainly the resulting lute has a marvellously clear sound throughout its register and seems perfectly matched to the music here.


Gondko has chosen a fascinating programme of music from the late 16th century to illustrate the instrument’s capabilities. The music is almost entirely unknown (to me, at least). He opens with an Italian group, then a group from his native Poland and other central European countries, then a group of German music and finally a group of English pieces – these sounding refreshingly different in that there are ornaments throughout (not present in any of the other national repertories, so far as the written record shows). His playing is flawless and very clearly characterises the different repertories heard here. So the disc is not just a demonstration of a rare lute but also a magnificent anthology of littleknown music, neatly assembled so that the pieces illuminate one another.

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