Day 2

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


  1. Rupert Waddington says:

    Great piece for day 2. I play lots of these little tastars and short ricercars and can approach them afresh now. Big bonus for me, however, is that, being self-taught and having struggled with RH thumb technique for six years now, I found that your video revealed to me what I was doing wrong. The result is transformative – thanks so much!

    1. Alex McCartney says:

      I’m so pleased to hear that Rupert!

  2. Stephen Hampshire says:

    I enjoyed this one. Lovely piece to dwell on and concentrate on tone and clean movement.

  3. Michael says:

    Is there a name / reason for ending on a G major ? (Picardie third ? or something).

    1. Alex McCartney says:

      I’m not totally sure, other than it clearly was a convention. I think the term ‘Tierce de Picardie’ belongs to a later century — but I’m sure there’s some connection in there.

      1. Alex McCartney says:

        According to wikipedia: “The term was introduced in 1767 by Rousseau in his “Dictionnaire de musique” (Dictionary of Music). “Tierce” means “third”, but no one knows why he called it “Picardie” (Picardy is an area in the north of France).”

        1. Michael says:

          Thanks ! lots of Ricercar seem to do this – and also use tenths a lot in the melody.

        2. Martin Wall says:
          Hi Alex

          Thanks for this generous challenge. I have been playing lute for a long time but all of my music lapsed some years back and I am just now starting again, to my great joy and recent shame! I have taken up Ukulele and am playing Renaissance 4-course guitar music on it, which is also a revelation. Today I thoroughly tuned my 10-course lute. Let it rip!!

          Percy Scholes believes that the use of Picardie (a town in Northern France) probably refers to the plethora of high art in the renaissance in that area and the use of the major third in the final cadence was because it was considered unmusical to end on a minor. Happy New Year to all luters!

          1. Alex McCartney says:

            Hi Martin,
            You’re very welcome — I’m glad to hear your musical interests are thriving again!
            Hope you enjoy the challenge,

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