luteThe Capriol series of books for the classical guitar contains a variety of music that is of English origin. Many of the pieces are by composers whose names are not well known but whose music is well worth playing.

Before the 19th century there are no known examples of English guitar music. To play pieces from earlier centuries we rely on transcriptions of music for other instruments. Lute tablatures are the obvious source but not all of its music is suitable for playing on the guitar. The essential sonority is different with its F sharp tuning and, to a lesser extent, its higher pitch. Furthermore some pieces are impossible to play on the guitar without making changes to the score. In many cases however a faithful transcription is possible, preserving the character of the piece.

When transcribing music from bandora tablatures the situation is eased somewhat because its top five strings were tuned in exactly the same way as those of the modern guitar. In “Ten English Pieces” and “Early English Music” the pieces by Anthony Holborne were for bandora. (The instrument is thought to be of purely English origin).

bandoraIn the three books containing early music there are also pieces transcribed from lyra viol tablatures. The nature of this instrument and its variety of tunings are described in the notes in each of the books. Sources and other details are also given. In the two manuscripts from which the music was taken the lists of composers contain many who were known to be players of the theorbo and the influence of this member of the lute family is clearly evident in some of the pieces.

Much of the music in these three books is by little known English composers who were active more than three hundred years ago and yet Henrie Read, William Younge and Stephen Goodall could be names from the 21st century. Nothing is known of their lives but their music is as much part of our heritage as that of their more eminent contemporaries and successors.