This website contains the largest lute video collection on the www. Over 250 lute composers are presented. The focus is on lute solo music and songs. until the 1800s.
For navigation please use the pages with composer lists or directly type the name in the search form at the top right corner of the screen. Enjoy!
This pase gives an overview of the most important composers for the lute with links to their individual video collection pages. An alphabetical order list of the complete composers is located here. Enjoy! It is based on the lute wikipedia page.
Lutes were in widespread use in Europe at least since the 13th century, and documents mention numerous early performers and composers. However, the earliest surviving lute music dates from the late 15th century.
Lute music flourished during the 16th and 17th centuries: numerous composers published collections of their music, and modern scholars have uncovered a vast number of manuscripts from the era—however, much of the music is still lost.
In the second half of the 17th century lutes, vihuelas and similar instruments started losing popularity, and almost no music had been written for the instrument after 1750. The interest in lute music was revived only in the second half of the 20th century.
The earliest surviving lute music is Italian, from a late 15th-century manuscript. The early 16th century saw Petrucci's publications of lute music by Francesco Spinacino (videos) (fl. 1507) and Joan Ambrosio Dalza (videos) (fl. 1508); together with the so-called Capirola Lutebook, these represent the earliest stage of written lute music in Italy.
The leader of the next generation of Italian lutenists, Francesco Canova da Milano (videos) (1497–1543), is now acknowledged as one of the most famous lute composers in history. The bigger part of his output consists of pieces called fantasias or ricercares, in which he makes extensive use of imitation and sequence, expanding the scope of lute polyphony.
In the early 17th century Johannes Hieronymus Kapsberger (videos) (c. 1580–1651) and Alessandro Piccinini (videos) (1566–1638) revolutionized the instrument's technique and Kapsberger, possibly, influenced the keyboard music of Frescobaldi (videos).
French written lute music began, as far as we know, with Pierre Attaingnant (videos)'s (c. 1494 – c. 1551) prints, which comprised preludes, dances and intabulations. Particularly important was the Italian composer Albert de Rippe (videos) (1500–1551), who worked in France and composed polyphonic fantasias of considerable complexity. His work was published posthumously by his pupil, Guillaume de Morlaye (videos) (born c. 1510), who, however, did not pick up the complex polyphony of de Rippe.
French lute music (videos) declined during the second part of the 16th century; however, various changes to the instrument (the increase of diapason strings, new tunings, etc.) prompted an important change in style that led, during the early Baroque, to the celebrated style brisé: broken, arpeggiated textures that influenced Johann Jakob Froberger's suites. The French Baroque school is exemplified by composers such as Ennemond Gaultier (videos) (1575–1651), Denis Gaultier (videos) (1597/1603–1672), François Dufaut (videos) (before 1604–before 1672) and many others.
The last stage of French lute music is exemplified by Robert de Visée (videos) (c. 1655–1732/3), whose suites exploit the instrument's possibilities to the fullest.
The history of German written lute music started with Arnolt Schlick (videos) (c. 1460–after 1521), who, in 1513, published a collection of pieces that included 14 voice and lute songs, and three solo lute pieces, alongside organ works. After Schlick, a string of composers developed German lute music: Hans Judenkünig (videos) (c. 1445/50–1526), the Neusidler family (particularly Hans Neusidler (videos) (c. 1508/09–1563)) and others.
During the second half of the 16th century, German tablature and German repertoire were gradually replaced by Italian and French tablature and international repertoire, respectively.
German lute music was revived much later by composers such as Esaias Reusner (videos) (fl. 1670), however, a distinctly German style came only after 1700 in the works of Silvius Leopold Weiss (videos) (1686–1750), one of the greatest lute composers, some of whose works were transcribed for keyboard by none other than Johann Sebastian Bach (videos) (1685–1750), who composed a few pieces for the lute himself (though it is unclear whether they were really intended for the lute, rather than another plucked string instrument or the lautenwerk).
Of other European countries, particularly important are England and Spain. English written lute music only began around 1540, however, the country produced numerous lutenists, of which John Dowland (videos) (1563–1626) is perhaps the most famous. His influence spread very far: variations on his themes were written by keyboard composers in Germany decades after his death. Dowland's predecessors and colleagues, such as Anthony Holborne (videos) (c. 1545–1602) and Daniel Bacheler (videos) (1572–1619), were less known.
Spanish composers (videos) wrote mostly for the vihuela; their main genres were polyphonic fantasias and differencias (variations). Luys Milan (videos) (c.1500–after 1560) and Luys de Narváez (videos) (fl. 1526–49) were particularly important for their contributions to the development of lute polyphony in Spain. Finally, perhaps the most influential European lute composer was the Hungarian Bálint Bakfark (videos) (c. 1526/30–1576), whose contrapuntal fantasias were much more difficult and tighter than those of his Western European contemporaries.