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The lute was central to the (polite) musical life of Scotland as it was to the rest of Renaissance and baroque Europe, but the surviving manuscripts testifying to this can be counted on the fingers: the Rowallan, Skene, Straloch, and Balcarres books, and the source featured here, the lute book of Lady Margaret Wemyss, who was born in 1629 and died aged just 19.

Here, lutenist Martin Eastwell has avoided an elephant trap of Scottish lute music recordings, and not recorded only the Scottish tunes, which are sweet but often very, very short; instead he gives a balanced programme by including French baroque lute ‘pops’ by Dufaut, Mezangeau, and the Gaultiers which are found in the manuscript, as indeed they were found in manuscripts all over Europe.

The lute’s sound is excellent, and Martin Eastwell’s editing of pieces not always correctly notated by their teenage scribe is convincing. To be honest, the little preludes he has composed to introduce successive suites seem musically more articulate than some of the arrangements played by Wemyss herself; but this only adds to the prevailingly touching character of the disc, which closes with a piece called ‘Goodnight’ and a version of the famous lament, ‘The Flowers of the Forest’.

Chris Goodwin Read the full review on Agora Classica


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