Hopkinson Smith: Bright & Early

The “supreme poet of the lute” (Gramophone) creates a subtle, intimate dialogue between Dalza and Spinacino, witnesses of the instrument’s flourishing culture in Italy at the dawn of the 16th century, in an album to be released on Naïve Classiques on February 3.

“Certainly the continued presence on this earth of an artist such as Smith – whose recordings over the years of the rich German, French, Italian, English and Spanish repertoire for guitar, vihuela and lute are surely one of the greatest musical ornaments of our own age – is worth celebrating.” –Gramophone

NEW YORK, NY – December 20, 2022 – On February 3, Naïve Classiques will release lutenist Hopkinson Smith’s Bright & Early, a new album dedicated to the music of early 16th century composers Joan Ambrosio Dalza and Francesco Spinacino.  Hopkinson Smith aims to capture the feeling of the “lone lute player who becomes a teller of tales through his instrument” in these reconstructed works by Dalza and Spinacino, utilizing a 6-course lute strung in the tradition of the late 15th century.

Smith focuses on several of Spinacino’s freeform Recercari, printed by Ottaviano Petrucci. Smith writes, “[Petrucci] was the first printer of polyphonic music, and starting in 1501, he produced luxurious editions of major works in beautiful detail with hardly a mistake. Petrucci’s 26th and 27th publications, Spinacino’s Libro Primo and Libro Secondo, both of 1507, on the other hand, are partly a mess. Although the graphic aspect of these publications falls into line with Petrucci’s first prints, the content is another story. There are numerous misprints, non-sequiturs in the texts, missing measures, inexplicable turns of phrase, and moments of bizarre counterpoint.”

“Dalza is more the café and tavern lutenist,” continues Smith. “He opens his book with a biographical detail that he was born in Milan (all we know about his life), and he adds an interesting comment that the pieces presented are somewhat simplified and that he will later publish ‘somewhat more challenging and demanding versions to satisfy those who are skilled in these matters’. (We have no trace of any second book!) I have occasionally felt free to elaborate on some of his texts in a spirit that seems to grow out of his printed versions.”

One other addition to the album that comes neither from the books of Dalza or Spinacino is Marchetto Cara’s intabulation of Io non compro più Speranza, which Smith calls, “one of the most beguiling of frottole, a genre that Petrucci published almost non-stop.”

“Some critics may see my reconstruction of the music as heresy, but I considered it necessary, given the degree of confusion in which many of Spinacino’s works have reached us,” says Smith. “I believed we had to either abandon the originals to their fate, never to be played, or tighten the loose threads of a convincing tapestry as a work of art.”

Hopkinson Smith draws a comparison between reconstructing these works and the restoration of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel in the 1980-90s, writing “when the artist’s original colors were once again revealed” they were found to be “bold, clear and bright.”

Bright & Early

Hopkinson Smith, Lute

Joan Ambrosio Dalza ?-1508

Saltarello ala Ferrarese

Francesco Spinacino ?-c.1507

Recercare 6

Recercare 13

Joan Ambrosio Dalza

Piva ala ferrarese

Caldibi castigliano

Caldibi saltarello*

Francesco Spinacino

Recercare 23

Recercare 4

 

Joan Ambrosio Dalza

Pavana ala ferrarese

 

Marchetto Cara 1470-c.1525

Io non compro più Speranza

 

Joan Ambrosio Dalza

Poi che volse la mia stella

Francesco Spinacino

Recercare 25

Recercare 15

 

Joan Ambrosio Dalza

Pavana ala venetiana

Saltarello ala venetiana

Piva ala venetiana

Francesco Spinacino

Recercare 12

Recercare 19

Joan Ambrosio Dalza

Poi che’l ciel contrario adverso

Calata ala spagnola ditto terzetti di zuan Ambroso Dalza

Tastar de corde

* Reconstruction by Hopkinson Smith

Excerpts from Joan Ambrosio Dalza, Intabulatura de lauto, libro IV (Venise, 1508) | Francesco Spinacino, Intabolatura de lauto, libro I & II (Venise, 1507) | Marchetto Cara, Franciscus bossinensis, libro I (Venise, 1509)

About Hopkinson Smith, Lute

Born in New York in 1946, Swiss-American lutenist, Hopkinson Smith graduated from Harvard with Honors in Music in 1972. The next year he came to Europe to study with Emilio Pujol in Catalonia and Eugen Dombois in Switzerland. He then became involved in numerous chamber music projects including the founding of the ensemble Hespèrion XX. Since the mid-80’s, he has focused almost exclusively on the solo repertoires for early plucked instruments producing a series of prize-winning recordings for Naïve. These feature Spanish music for vihuela and baroque guitar, French lute music of the Renaissance and baroque, early 17th century Italian music and the German high baroque.

The recording of his lute arrangements of the Bach solo violin Sonatas and Partitas, released in the year 2000, has been universally acclaimed by the press. Gramophone magazine called it ‘the best recording of these works on any instrument’. A Dowland recording, out since early 2005, won a Diapason d’Or and was called ‘wonderfully personal’ in a review in the New York Times. A recording with music from the world of Francesco da Milano, was awarded a Diapason d’Or de l’Année (the French equivalent of a Grammy award) in November 2009 and has been called ‘the first recording to do justice to Francesco’s reputation.’ A CD with the first three Bach ‘cello Suites played on the German Theorbo was released in early 2013, has also won a Diapason d’Or and was called ‘totally riveting’ in the BBC Music Magazine. His latest recording, Mad Dog is devoted to highlights of the Golden Age of English lute music. It has also won a Diapason d’Or and has been called ‘mesmerizing’ by the BBC.

Hopkinson Smith has performed and given master classes throughout eastern and western Europe, North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, Korea and Japan sometimes combining the lifestyle of a hermit with that of a gypsy. In 2007 and 2009, he gave concerts and workshops in Palestine under the auspices of the Barenboim-Said Foundation and the Swiss Arts Council. In 2010, he received the music prize from the Italian Region of Puglia with the inscription ‘maestro dei maestri, massimo interprete delle musiche per liuto dell’antica Europa Mediterranea’, and he is the 2015 winner of the Music Prize from the city of Petrer in the province of Alicante in Spain and the 2018 he was honored by the International Festival of Taxco in Mexico. In October 2021 he received the Chitarra d’Oro award from the Convegno Internazionale de la Chitarra in Milan. He teaches at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis. www.hopkinsonsmith.com