Dutch philosopher, theologian, and musician Adriaan Smout collected over 900 compositions from the late 1500s. This massive collection made its way to John Thysius, a book collector, for whom the collection is named.

The collection is a virtual cross-section of European lute music. While most of the sources aren’t listed, modern scholars have traced works back to various English, French, Italian, and German sources.

The Pacoloni Ensemble take an imaginative approach in their programming. The disc is carefully programmed for context. Most tracks contrast with the ones that preceded them. A few form a miniature suite of similar pieces.

The ensembles varies the sound by using one to four lutes. Different combinations yield different timbres. And a few tracks also use percussion for added energy.

There’s a roughness to the playing I found appealing. When the four lutes are playing together, attacks aren’t always precise. To me, that seems more appropriate to the way these works would have been originally heard.

These lute pieces were written for amateur music-making. The Pacoloni Ensemble gives us an idea of what these pieces would have sounded like (had they been played by exceptionally gifted amateurs).

Adriaan Smout: Thysius Lute Book
Pacoloni Ensemble
Brilliant Classics 95821