Moving on


I’m getting Old.

Nothing really new here, of course, I’ve been aware of it for the last thirty years or so; but what is new is that, having reached an age where most normal people keep their grey cells fit feeding squirrels on a pond from a park bench or something like that, I decided to change my ways. Only, considering my zoological prowess, I shall rather invest my idle time within familiar territory. 

Amazing what you can put together over 40 years in the professon. I started up as an amateur, oh so many years ago, and when I actually moved onto the professional stage I thought I’d stick to the handful of instruments that attracted me most at the time and I expected would keep me happy for ever after…
I ended up with over 40 moulds all sorts (and some 470 usable instruments), and it could have been well beyond that, had I complied with all the whims I was asked to over the years.

It has been a lot of fun with every project, by all means – and in fact, sometimes I needed to put my teeth into the odd one just to wipe the blackboard clean and go back afresh to the regular stuff – but, were I really to pick the flowers among the flowers, I woud still put my first love, the six course lute, king of them all, at the top of the list.

Still, the project that gave me a deeper insight into the soul of the lute was the seven-piece family I had the privilege to build for Lynda Sayce (thanks for giving me the rare opportunity!), from liutino piccolo to big bass.

Ploughing through the many surviving instruments by Venere (the obvious choice, goes without saying) and developing a plausible geometrical framework with a number of minor betrayals (we are talking fractions, of course) on some of the old master’s original instruments, in order to stay true to my own working plan. The end resut was well worth all the little headaches and extra work (like making three brand new mould just for the nonce or, true to historical evidence, using double trebles on all of them except the treble and the liutino piccolo).
Putting together a consort with instruments from different makers, most likely based on different models, just does not work, no matter how good each instrument is in itself. 
(Try, just for fun, to have a bunch of modern opera singers sing a Monteverdi madrigal, some trained in Italian opera, some Wagner specialists, with a pinch of French or Russian spices, all wonderful singers in their own, and see what happens). 

With time an idée fixe of mine became the Roman tradition, once I started to realise that there were consistent fundamental traits of all instruments built in Rome (the main one being the larger scale, which was the consequence of the lower pitch in use there). (See under Instruments of interest). 

Another branch I learned to enjoy putting my teeth into is that of the late Baroque lutes. 
I started to find a real interest in the Baroque dimension a number of years into my professional career: after a handful of instruments in the early days (things without praise or blame, no better or worse than what you found on the market in those days, looking at it with a pinch of detachment) I took a long break from the stuff: I simply could not suss out the real nature of the Baroque lute. Indeed, for a while I wondered whether the Baroque lute makers had any idea themselves about what they were doing (they did of course, from the perspective of who they really were: gamba and fiddle makers in the first place, building lutes for a radically changed aesthetical taste). But I always kept an open ear to the music and a keen eye on what could be seen around – mostly museums, of course – until in 1998 I ‘discovered’ the 1694 Berr in Ptuj (thank you Boris) at one end of the spectrum and in 1999 the 1743 AB Jauch in Copenhagen at the other end, which got me really curious; and soon after I was let to the c. 1740 J Hoffmann in Berlin (led to it by H Hoffmann, the lutenist from Bremen, who obviously wanted to play on a Hoffmann lute – cheers, Harry). 

Of course you’re always welcome to pick my brains on any queries you might have about our wondrous instruments and their music.