Lute Music from the Netherlands

In Brief

  • Title: Lute music from the Netherlands.
  • Musician: Toyohiko Satoh.
  • Identification: BFO-A16.
  • Recording date: November 1990.
  • Publishing year: 1991.

Onder een Linde Groen by Nicolas Vallet


In the early days of my guitar playing hobby, Renaissance music became my favourite. I played a collection of pieces from The Renaissance Guitar by Noad and Leichte Stuecke aus Sheakespeare’s Zeit by Karl Scheit.

At a certain moment, I was searching in the library of Enschede (its music collection is quite large because of the conservatory in this city). I came across a few volumes of Europaeische Gitarren und Lautenmusik by Heinz Teuchert. One of the parts covered Flemish/Dutch composers like Joachim van den Hove, Pierre Phalese and Nicolas Vallet. That incited my interest for the lute music from the low countries.

Many years later I find it remarkable, what does a student that plays symfo-rock at home find in this old Renaissance music from the Dutch golden age? As a matter of fact, it still attracts me, this timeless Renaissance music.

Maybe it is the wonder that I read from a review about the Fantasias by Franceso da Milano. The Renaissance era was a violent era, a time of turmoil. It was the time of diseases, the black death, violence, arbitrariness, power-mad people and a clerical order that behaved like some followers of Mohammed do today in the Taliban states. It was a sure sign that re-birth does not go without labour pains indeed! Yet the music of this era seems to transcend the troubles in a kind of rebellious individualism.

When I knew the names of the various Flemish and Dutch masters, I soon came across the recordings of the lutenist Toyohiko Satoh who came to Holland as a professor in music at the the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, a post that he held until 2004. I bought two records by the Philips label, one of them being Greensleeves And Other Popular Tunes. I played their records until I sold my vinyl collection.

Briefly after his adventure with the Philips label, Satoh brought out his interpretation of the lute music from the low countries on the CD Lute music from the Netherlands, an interesting compilation of lute music by Adriaensen, Sweelinck, van den Hove, Huwet, Valerius and Vallet.

The CD starts in style with Almande Prince, an instrumental arrangement of the Dutch national anthem The Wilhelmus, that happened to be composed in those days at the beginning of the Dutch Republic and it was dedicated to the Prince of Orange that led the insurrection against Spain.

The remainder of the CD provides an interesting mixture of fantasies, dances and songs. It is striking how readily lute composers used and arranged each other’s work, with as examples the English dance Mal Simmes, the song Orlando Sleepeth by Dowland and the folk song Sweet Robin that was known in Holland by the name Soet Robbert.

Toyohiko Satoh plays the music accurately and according to a clear view on performance practices, an approach that is obvious from all pieces on the album. The recording is nice, close and with a subtle and natural reverb, which gives the music an intimate character. The complete CD breathes an almost serene tranquility, I consider that quite special when I compare it with some present-day lute recordings. Extremities in dynamics are rare, which requires some settling down if you are expecting some sparkling passion in this music.

Toyohiko Satoh’s interpretation has been an example for me how to play Renaissance music quite a while. Gradually other examples emerged, of course, but this CD remains a pleasant memory.

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