Mad Dog: The Elizabethan Lute

Wednesday 27th Nov - 7:00pm
Larry Sitsky Recital Room

In his first mainland Australian tour, the world's undisputed master of the renaissance lute brings his full artistry to bear on this colourfol programme of Elizabethan virtuoso solo lute pieces.

Born in New York in 1946, Swiss-American lutenist Hopkinson Smith graduated from Harvard with Honours in Music in 1972. In Europe, he worked with Emilio Pujol, a great pedagogue in the highest Catalan aristic tradition, and with the Swiss Lutenist Eugen Dombois, whose sense of organic unity between performer, instrument and historical period has had a lasting effect on him. 

He has been involved in numerous chamber music projects and was one of the founding members of the ensemble Hesperion XX. Since the mid-80s, he has focused almost exclusively on solo repertoires for the early plucked instrument, producing a series of prize-winning recordings. 

Hopkinson-Smith has performed and given master classes throughout Eastern and Western Europe, North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, Korea and Japan. 

Hopkinson-Smith shares his melancholy, paradisical and poetic interpretations of some of the best surviving solo instrumental music of Elizabethan England, the so-called "Golden Age" of the Lute. With pieces taken from his album "Mad Dog", the program will feature masterpieces for solo lute by John Dowland (1563-1626), Anthony Holborne (1545-1602) and John Johnson (1545-1594). 

John Dowland, though also a sprightly and humourous composer, is most famous for the darker side of his character and the pervading melancholy that nourished his unquiet soul. But he was in no way the inventor of highly charged melodic poignancy in solo lute music. Two important composers of the generation of English lutenists that preceded him clearly show signs of great invention, including moments of tormented yearnings which led to music of extraordinary depth. John Johnson and Anthony Holborne were the most prominent lutenists to remain in England during the Elizabethan period. Their oeuvre contains rhapsodic Pavans of lyrical intensity and richness of harmony, spirited Galliards, striking character pieces (one of which is entitled 'Mad Dog') and elaborate variations. They were both virtuosos of the highest calibre as the daring of their dimunition techniques attests. This program highlights theirs and Dowland's masterpieces from the 1580s and 90s. 

"Hopkinson Smith, without doubt the finest lute player in the world today" - San Franciso Chronicle 

"The entire concert was exceptional from beginning to end. The artist drew an all-surrounding sound from the lute, something not at all self-evident given the intimate character of the instrument. Very refined technically, exquisite musically, and with a clarity of execution which was truely enviable, Smith showed once again that he is one of the greats, or, more precisely, the greatest." - Dario de Mallorca, 25 July 2019 

"Hopkinson Smith is surely the most charismatic lutenist in the world today" - Kronen Zeitung, Austria, January 2018 

"Smith's approach is the same: locate the soul of each piece through the most sophisticated and subtle use of extemporised embellishment you'll ever hear. Yes, it's that good." - Gramaphone 2017