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Au Joly Bois / Kate Clark, flutes; Nigel North, lute, therobo

Notes & Reviews:

In an age when thousands of recordings testify to the glorious history of the flute as a solo, chamber, and orchestral instrument - and even as a marvelous vehicle for jazz - it is difficult to imagine that the flute did not always have a distinct identity and a dedicated repertoire. In fact, there was no such thing as a "flute repertoire" until the early 18th century. Before this, the flute was simply one of the "soft instruments" considered suitable mostly for indoor music. One particular development stands out as a feature of 16th century musical practice that seems to point toward the role that instruments would come to have in the future: this was the practice of improvising virtuosic embellishments known as "diminutions" or "divisions" upon a single melody line taken from a polyphonic vocal piece while the remaining parts were played on a lute. The perfect balance between equal parts is lost, but the immense power of a beautifully crafted melody is highlighted. The lute supports the whole with a harmony full of life and rhythmic intricacy.


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