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Music : Cosens lute book


<p style='text-align: justify;'>The lute book Add.3056 lacks a title page bearing an owner's name and so it is now called the <i>Cosens lute book</i> after its nineteenth-century owner Frederick W. Cosens. However, the initials C.K. occur in about half a dozen of the titles to music known to be by other composers, suggesting that they are the initials of the owner and scribe. Although the initials do not match any likely candidate from the records, the neat tablature, uniform throughout, as well as the level of difficulty of much of the music suggests the lute book is more likely to have belonged to a professional musician, rather than an enthusiastic amateur nobleman like many of the other surviving examples. Several of the popular English pavans and galliards by known composers, including 3 by John Dowland, are accompanied by a distinctive personal style of division writing, indicative of the owner making their own arrangements of the standard repertory which a professional would be expected to do.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The book comprising 187 folios was probably bought ready bound from a commercial supplier, the T. E. stamped on some pages is probably Thomas East the London printer. Tablature was copied on only 60 or so folios, the remainder are blank. The music is all for solo 6- or 7-course renaissance lute, and composers are known for most of the 71 items, some mainstream: John Dowland (8), Daniel Bacheler (4), Anthony Holborne (1), Thomas Robinson (1), Francis Cutting (1), others with few surviving lute compositions: John Danyel (3), Edward Collard (1), Robert Ascue (1), Michael Cavendish (1), and yet others whose lute music is only known from this manuscript: W. Hollis (1), Thomas Vautor (1) and Thomas Smyth (4), and curiously the latter is a name written in the lute book of Richard Mynshall (London, Royal Academy of Music, MS 601).</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Apart from this core repertory of some of the best of English lute music, 22 pages in the middle are filled with Italian preludes and fantasias, several by Laurencini, now thought to be the papal lutenist-composer Lorenzo Tracetti, as well as the best known fantasia of Francesco da Milano (Ness no. 33). Other ascriptions are to a prelude by the French lutenist Charles Bocquet and a fantasia by the German composer Melchior Neusidler, and other pieces quote from fantasias otherwise known in German manuscript sources, suggesting that the owner may have travelled, possibly accompanying diplomatic missions to the continent, or may have been foreign, or at least had access to music from the continent.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>John H. Robinson, Lute Society</p>

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