Artist: Edward Martin and Thomas Walker
Release Date: 2015 Feb 17
License: CC BY-NC-SA
Edward Martin and Thomas Walker: Courante is a very special and unique recording. The type of release that does not happen very often, especially in the classical world. These days most of the major labels are primarily interested in releasing yet another recording of the standard cannon, or re-packaging recordings that are guaranteed to generate sales just because they are already well known.
In order to produce different and interesting works these days, many Classical musicians are resorting to self production, or the smaller specialty / independent labels that focus on niche areas of classical music. So, Magnatune releasing a work that would normally have been destined to reach the ears of a small audience is a big deal.
Edward Martin and Thomas Walker: Courante
There are many other very special things about this recording: The first is the use of a pair of matching lutes from Gamut Music of Duluth, Minnesota. Both instruments strung with gut strings, which is rarely used these days. And the fact that these French lute pieces are composed in the lesser known counterpart style: solo pieces that feature a second lute for harmonic and thematic extension.
If that were all of the items that made this recording special, it would have been enough for most connoisseurs of French lute music. But, Martin and Walker wanted to take things a step further.in and find longer compositions to supplement the shorter dance pieces. When the search for longer pieces in the counterpart style failed, Gamut Music commissioned composer Tyler Kaiser to compose to counterpart versions of two pieces: the Chaconne In G Major by Charles Mouton and the Chaconne (Sarabande) in A Minor by Ennemond Vieux Gaultier. These pieces serve as bookends to this recording.
The lute is really quite a gorgeous instrument to listen to. Often it is thought of as a predecessor to the modern acoustic guitar. (Although sometimes it has been depicted as the butt of a good joke, such as in the Sinfonia Concertante for Six Solo Instruments and String Orchestra by PDQ Bach.) But taking it as only the predecessor to the acoustic guitar is denying the beautiful tone of the instrument that is not to be found in other stringed instruments. It has a more earthy and deep sound that fees more connected to the environment than the guitar
In these counterpart works, the instrument takes on a new life. The depths are accentuated, that the resonance of the tone is more searching. By extending the solo nature of these pieces with the accompaniment we get a feeling of the intricacy the composers felt for the instrument. In fact they stand as equal to the violin in their ability to be evocative and emotive.
IN this release Edward Martin and Thomas Walker have presented works that are not just interesting from an academic perspective. Nor is this a work that should be seen as a pure curiosity. Instead they have opened a door to part of the lute repertoire that is unjustly rarely heard. And for that we should all be thankful.
Edward Martin and Thomas Walker: Courante could have just been a niche lute recording that would not be worth much attention. However, the choice of recording arrangements of French lute music that is rarely (if ever) heard was simply not enough for these two musicians. Identical instruments, with period authentic gut-strings add an air of authenticity to their work. However, commissioning two larger form works in the same style to accompany the body of this recording really set it apart from any lute recordings I’ve heard in the last decade. It really is a recording where the result far exceeds the sum of all it’s parts.