The development of Italianate continuo lutes

Sayce, Lynda (2001). The development of Italianate continuo lutes. PhD thesis The Open University.



This work charts the development of the Italianate continuo or extended-neck lutes, i.e., the archlute, liuto attiorbato, chitarrone and theorbo. It examines their origins, explains their nomenclature (currently a source of great confusion), and discusses the defining characteristics of each type, how these changed over time, and how national and regional variants developed. It is based upon examination of surviving instruments, many of which are described in detail for the first time, supplemented with information gleaned from iconography, sources of solo and ensemble music, theorists' writings, and payment records. The main focus is on Italy, the country where these instruments originated, where they occupied their most fundamental place in music history, and where most surviving examples were built. Two chapters are devoted to the archlute and liuto attiorbato, examining the characteristics of different types, and their usage. Particular attention is paid to Rome, a vitally important and little-appreciated centre for archlute playing. Three chapters are devoted to the Italian theorbo, examining the origin of its characteristic tuning, the etymology of its names, and the development of several highly specialized types. Several examples are discussed. The much-neglected repertory after 1660 is surveyed, and printed sources listed.

This is followed by an overview of the extended-neck lutes' history in France, including the initial importation of Italian instruments, the subsequent development of characteristically French archlute and theorbo types, and their place in French music and culture. A further chapter examines instruments built in Germany and Austria, explaining their evolution from extremely Italianate examples to a characteristically Germanic type, and giving a brief overview of their tunings, repertory and usage.

The final chapter examines the characteristics of fake instruments built around 1900 to defraud collectors. It discusses their construction, materials and decoration, and outlines a methodology for distinguishing them from genuine specimens.

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