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Francis CUTTING (c.1550-1596)
Lute Music
Dominico Cerasani (Lute)
rec. 2019, Badia Cavana- Lesignano de’Bagni, Italy

It is possible that some of you remember, or still have, an LP or even the CD of an early recording by RCA entitled ‘The Golden Age of English Lute Music’ and played by the young and brilliant Julian Bream. Many of the names on it, like Dowland and Rosseter, were more familiar but Francis Cutting was represented with a beautiful set of variations on Greensleeves and an Almain, both recorded here - the latter (a little more stiffly) as on track 20. I wondered who he was; now we can find out and listen to twenty-two of his fifty surviving pieces.

It seems that Cutting did not earn his living as lutenist or as a composer but to describe him as amateur would be a mistake. He possesses his own stylistic fingerprints, writing with elegance, producing memorable melodies and sometimes quite advanced harmonies. He is a contemporary of that other significant lutenist/composer John Johnson (d.1594); both composed in all forms of dances and variations on popular tunes like Walsingham and on pieces written by their contemporaries, but curiously Cutting left no Fantasias or duets.

This, then, is the first time a disc has been devoted to Cutting’s fine compositions. The pieces come from just four sources as detailed in the excellent booklet notes by Jan W.J. Burgers who edited the music in a publication of 2002. Three manuscripts are extant and each was copied by a certain Matthew Holmes (d.1621). He was clearly a friend of Cutting, whose music features prominently in the manuscripts. Another is ‘A new Booke of Tabliture’ published by William Barley in 1596, probably a posthumous, memorial publication.

However, Cutting needed a patron and living in London he found one in the Howard family at Arundel House in the middle of a lively artistic milieu; he was really a servant and chamber musician all in one and was clearly proficient enough composing in all forms, dedicating his more serious pieces, often Pavans or Galliards, to various dignitaries such as Sir Walter Raleigh, whose picture adorns the CD cover, and the Pavan Sir Fulke Greville to that poet, dramatist and statesmen. I wonder who Mrs Anne Markham was, who receives such a fine Pavan.

The recording venue produces the wonderful acoustic of a Romanesque Abbey church in central Italy and this no doubt has helps in affording the listener a remarkably relaxing and pleasurable hour. The performances do not impose themselves between the listener and the composer. Cerasani’s fingerwork is always neat and stylish and the tracks are well contrasted; I shall certainly be on the lookout for more of his recordings. I’m sure that there are certainly other, probably quite obscure, English lutenist composers lurking in the musical undergrowth still waiting to be discovered.

Gary Higginson

Sir Walter Raleigh’s Galliard [1.32]
The Squirrel’s Toy- Cutting’s Comfort [1.36]
Mrs Anne Markham’s Pavan [4.16]
Galliard [1.47]
Quadro Pavan [2.22]
My Lord Willoughby’s Welcome Home –(Dowland/Cutting) [3.09]
Galliard on ‘Go from my Window’ [1.47]
Pavana Bray (Byrd/Cutting) [4.42]
Galliard [1.45]
Almain [1.24]
Pavan Sans Per [3.16]
Galliard [1.58]
Greensleeves [3.12]
Galliard [1.35]
Jig-Toy [2.37]
Walsingham [2.59]
Galliard [1.37]
Almain [2.00]
Galliard [1.55]
Packington’s Pound [2.51]

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