Lovers of lute and gamba music are a distinguished set!
Leonardo da Vinci’s intellectual development is closely linked with lute music. Early in life, as a court musician in Milan, he is said to have played for the Duke Ludovico il Moro and been greatly admired for his skill as a lutenist. Among other things, he produced a wonderful image of a lute-playing angel, and among his manuscripts there is a lute constructed from the skull of a horse. The Spanish style of lute, the Vihuela da mano, was a favourite of his.
In music, as in portrait paintings, compositional elements reflecting universal principles and the regular patterns of the divine laws of nature, can give works a deep symbolic power. Listening, for instance, to the highly luminous and spiritual music of the Renaissance, one can be transported back to the world of Leonardo da Vinci and of his fantastic artistic creations.
Galileo Galilei was born into a family of lutenists. His father Vincenzo Galilei wrote a lute tutor that appeared in repeated editions, while his younger brother Michelangelo Galilei, who became Galileo’s charge after the death of Vincenzo, was renowned as a virtuoso lutenist and composer. After a series of engagements in Poland, he settled in Munich where he was employed in the court chapel of the Elector Maximilian I and lived for the rest of his life. Three of his children also became lutenists! He maintained intensive correspondence with his brother and shared with him a world of intellectual freedom and creative inspiration.
Many other great thinkers could be named who have been influenced by the music of the lute and indeed the gamba, too: the mathematician Peter Merseen who was permitted by lutenists, among others, to square the circle on their instruments, Johannes Kepler who converted his calculations into music, Robert Fludd in whose Temple of Music the lute features as a basic element, Johann Sebastian Bach who composed numerous pieces for the lute and viola da gamba and who found in Sylvius Leopold Weiss - lutenist at
the Court of Dresden - the one colleague he could make music with on an equal footing, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe whose father may have been one of the last lutenists of former times … the list could go on for ever.
The common denominator among all these personalities is an air of intellectual refinement and exceptional individual ingenuity.
While listening to Quiet Music for the Lute and Viola da Gamba you can let your mind dwell on these individuals and their boundless powers of imagination - and perhaps allow yourself to float a while in their elevated spheres …
© Lutz Kirchhof, Weilburg 2015