From Library Journal, April
15, 2002. Review by Timothy J. McGee, Professor of Music, University
The lute was the most important and versatile instrument
in Europe throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance before yielding
its place to keyboard instruments in the 17th century.
Ergo, this first comprehensive, English-language history dedicated
solely to the lute is long overdue. Musicologist Smith, editor of
the Journal of the Lute Society of America, has succeeded at an enormous
undertaking: in addition to detailing the history of the instrument,
he includes a discussion of its cultural setting, facts about changes
in its construction and repertory, and biographies of its most prominent
performers. The reader is given a clear overview of the instrument
from its origin in central Asia, through its introduction to Europe
by Arab invaders, to its prominence as the "king of Renaissance
instruments"U in courtly circles. About 75 illustrations (mostly
black and white, with a four-page color section) and 56 musical examples
round out the text. Highly recommended for medieval and Renaissance
history and music collections in public and academic libraries.
From Nostalgia No. 8 (October 2002), Newsletter of the Lute and
Early Guitar Society Japan, reviewed by David van Ooijen
"A History of the Lute"
by D. A. Smith reads like a novel on the lute and its music. Its content
is chronological from antiquity till early Italian renaissance, after
which each country receives its own chapter. There is also a chapter
on lute making with beautiful illustrations. In the course of the
different chapters many composers are given a small paragraph with
details about their lives and works.
From Journal of the American Musical
Instrument Society, reviewed
by Kenneth Bé (Associate Conservator of Paintings, Cleveland
Museum of Art)
Although covering the lute's history only up to
the end of the Renaissance period, the book's scope is vast.
Ample discussion of lute music repertoire, biographies of important
composers, the lute's cultural and societal context, tablature notations
are all included in chapters organized by geography throughout Europe.
As the amount of extant documentary archives and
surviving instruments vastly increases after the beginning of the
sixteenth century, Smith's book offers an especially detailed and
informative account of lute making during this period. It makes
a fascinating reading of the multi-generational family lute firms
in Bologna, Venice, and Padua from the early to mid-sixteenth century
until well into the next century.
The staggering output of these workshops hums to
life especially in the extraordinary appendices of the book which
include two separate room by room inventories made in 1581 of the
Tieffenbrucker workshop in Venice describing the astonishing quantity
of lutes which filled the building to near over capacity.
rivista di chitarra (Milan, Italy, April, 2003), by Dr. Stefano Toffolo
It's astounding…that [the author] has succeeded
in completing by himself the
largest, most profound and important study ever realized on the history
of the lute relative to a temporal arc of such broad extent. . . .
There issues a living and brilliant picture which one wishes, so to
speak, never to leave, since the words of the author, the images of
paintings and the instruments, tell the story of an extraordinary
and certainly not marginal chapter of the history of music, of lutherie,
of painting, and more in general, of culture. . . . Many
thanks, Lute Society of America
and naturally, bravo
Dr. Douglas Alton Smith!
a publication of the Association of College and Research Libraries
(American Library Association), January, 2003, by Dr. Dane Heuchemer,
Associate Professor and Chair of Music, Kenyon College
Although lute scholars may continue to crave a
more in-depth study, Smith does an excellent job covering the essentials,
and this book will be very useful to those needing a starting point.
. . . The chapters are meticulously organized, with section headings
leading the reader to composers, styles, genres, publishers, etc.
Though the treatment of some composers may be a bit too concise to
satisfy all expectations, those looking for additional information
will appreciate Smith's thoroughness in citing sources. Smith is particularly
careful not to go beyond what the evidence adequately supports.
(vol. 73, Spring, 2003) published by the Guild of American Luthiers,
review by Bryan Johanson (Professor of Music and coordinator
of guitar and harp program, Portland State University)
In his brilliant and beautiful new
book, A History of the Lute from Antiquity to the Renaissance,
Douglas Alton Smith has given us a wonderfully-written account of
the rich history of that once seemingly extinct instrument. Although
the lute is most immediately related to the Arabic oud, Mr. Smith
takes pains to trace the origin of the lute to much earlier times.
The lute's connection to ancient Greek culture, with its influential
philosophy, music theory, and aesthetics, shaped the development of
the Renaissance lute as much as its more recent Arabic heritage. Tracing
the origin of any string instrument into antiquity is a tricky business.
There are many ways in which an author's narrative can become bogged
down in slogging through all the loose ends and fragmented bits. What
is so refreshing about Mr. Smith's book is the strength of its vision.
His writing about the lute's far-distant past is fluid and engaging.
. . .
He clearly traces the rise of the
lute's popularity, country by country.… Mr. Smith has woven
many historical threads together to give us a complex and complete
picture of the lute as it existed in society. To follow the early
history of the lute is to also follow the early history of music.
. . .
It is a remarkable accomplishment
in its scope and depth and literary style. For professional musicians,
luthiers, and musicologists, this book is an absolute must. It will
no doubt become the standard reference work on the subject for many
years to come. In addition to use by scholars, lutheirs,musicians,
and serious-minded students, the book is also an incredibly enjoyable
read. On the most obvious level, it can also be savored as a compelling
historical narrative. I would suggest that anyone who listens to lute
music for pleasure can enjoy this book for the same kind of pleasure.
A History of the Lute from Antiquity
to the Renaissance is published by the Lute Society of America, and I
would like to take a few moments and congratulate them for the look
of the final publication. It is a beautifully prepared, edited, and
laid-out book. The integration of text, musical examples, and illustrations
adds immeasurably to the joy of this book. It was obviously prepared
with great care and respect for the material, and the Lute Society
of America is to be praised. . . . [Smith's] book is a massive achievement
to which the reader can return again and again for information, insights,