Day 10

Joan Ambrosio Dalza (fl. 1508) was an Italian lutenist and composer. His surviving works comprise the fourth volume of Ottaviano Petrucci's influential series of lute music publications, Intabolatura de lauto libro quarto (Venice, 1508). Dalza is referred to as "milanese" in the preface, so it must be assumed he was either born in Milan, or worked there, or both.

Together with the oeuvres of Francesco Spinacino and Vincenzo Capirola, Dalza's work constitutes an important part of early Renaissance lute music. The surviving pieces comprise 42 dances, nine ricercares, five tastar de corde, four intabulations and a piece called Caldibi castigliano. The dances are arranged in miniature suites. Each of the five pavanes (five alla venetiana, four alla ferrarese) is followed by a saltarello and a piva that are thematically and harmonically related to it. Other groupings include pairs of tastar de corde with a recercar dietro. Some pieces, such as Caldibi castigliano and those titled Calate ala spagnola, show Spanish influence, possibly because of vihuela cultivation in 16th century Italy.

Dalza's music is, for the most part, comparatively simple and easy to perform. The composer himself acknowledged the fact in the preface to Petrucci's volume, and promised to publish more complex pieces at a later date. It is currently unknown whether this had been realized. Although contemporaries such as Spinacino and Capirola wrote in a more advanced idiom, Dalza's output is important because it consists almost entirely of original music, not vocal intabulations. Furthermore, Dalza's collection includes the earliest known pavanes[2] (described as padoane diverse on the title page), which are also the earliest known variations: all pavane alla venetiana feature harmonic variations with a loosely defined tonic, and pavane alla ferrarese consist of series of open-ended phrases followed by varied repeats: AA'–BB'–CC'–.. etc. These variation forms are sometimes referred to as single-strain and multiple-strain, respectively.

Dalza's collection is also one of the very few sources to feature tastar de corde, short introductory preludes. The name translates from Italian to "testing of the strings". Dalza's pieces are arranged symmetrically by key: G, C, D (with F), C (with E), G. They range from 16 (number 1) to 42 bars (numbers 3 and 4); the material essentially consists of static chords alternating with short fast passages.

Biography sourced from Wikipedia

You're a third of the way through the challenge! Well done!


  1. This was one of the first pieces I learned on the lute. Satisying to play, I like the way Alex is playing it.

    1. Alex McCartney says:

      That’s a nice coincidence! Glad you still enjoyed it a second time.

  2. Adrian Lincoln says:

    Hi Alex, I really enjoyed this one (especially the surprise chord in bar 25!). I have a question about how long should the bass notes be sustained since there are none explicitly indicated. It’s clear that you were holding on the 5th course notes in bars 21,23 and 25 for at least 2 beats. In general should I be aiming to hold those notes for whole bars? Adrian

    1. Alex McCartney says:

      Great! I really like this one too.
      Yes, it’s up to you really: you could try holding them for the full bar and see if the support from the sustain works musically for you. I think I was automatically trying to keep bar 21 less sustained in the bass, just to emphasise the treble — but that’s just my instinct. Generally, sustain is definitely a good thing in bass parts.

  3. Stephen Hampshire says:

    Anyone else getting big “Paint It Black” vibes from the first 2 bars?!

  4. Pasquale Bianculli says:

    I am enjoying this January gift very much. If I could make one suggestion, and that would be placing your camera a little lower in the shot in order to better study your right hand. It is often difficult to see some of the movements youa re doing. Thank you.

    1. Alex McCartney says:

      Hello Pasquale,
      I’m really pleased that you’re having a good time with the Challenge!
      Yes, thanks for suggesting a better angle for the camera.I would normally do my more formal ‘lute tutor lessons’ headless (on screen) but I thought it might be more sociable to film these at a wider angle. I’ll probably try two cameras next year so that I can definitely show both hands clearly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *