HOPKINSON SMITH

Hopkinson Smith has been called the most moving of present day lutenists...he approaches the lute's universe with a musicality which goes far beyond the seemingly limited voice of his instrument. We invite you to explore on this website the magic of his lute and its music.

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Hopkinson Smith : Mad Dog

The American lutenist Hopkinson Smith was born in 1946. This beautiful album of lute works melancholy and spry was recorded in 2015 but released only now. A 70th-birthday present to himself, perhaps? Certainly the continued presence on this earth of an artist such as Smith, whose recordings over the years of the rich German, French, Italian, English and Spanish repertoire for guitar, vihuela and lute are surely one of the greatest musical ornaments of our own age, is worth celebrating.

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Hopkinson Smith, Beyond the Instrument

HOPKINSON SMITH ’70 describes J.S. Bach as a musical ecologist. “He recycled so many of his own works,” Smith explains. “He never stopped trying to adapt what he’d written.” It was an accepted musical practice at the time, but one imagines the composer was driven at least in part by pragmatism: his posts in a number of German cities required him to produce new compositions at a fierce pace. Refashioning musical materials helped him keep up with those demands. “Even so,” Smith adds, “writing a cantata a week would not have been a manageable task for the rest of us mortals.”

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A Duo, a Trio, a Quartet, and a Lute Recital: Diversity Rules

Philadelphia, December 4th, 2015

[...] An elegant and genial figure on the platform and a master of his instrument, Smith not only achieved prodigies of prestidigitation in the faster pieces, but in the slower ones, his superfine delicacy of touch evoked just the kind of magic that so much of Shakespeare’s work shared with his contemporaries in that same golden age of English music, drama, and literature. 
The spell Smith cast over his listeners assured him of an enthusiastic ovation. This he rewarded with an additional piece by Anthony Holborne, aptly choosing that composer’s Fare thee well. [...] 

by Bernard Jacobson (Seen And Heard International)

Strings Attached - May 2015 - The Whole Note

There are more Bach transcriptions available in a 4 CD box set of the works for solo violin and solo cello, Sonatas & Partitas, Suites, this time in transcriptions for lute and theorbo by the American lutenist Hopkinson Smith (naïve 8 22186 08939 2). The set is a reissue in box form of Smith’s previous CDs; the Violin Sonatas & Partitas were recorded in 1999 and the Cello Suites in 1980, 1992 and 2012. A theorbo is used for the first three cello suites and a 13-course baroque lute for the violin works and the cello suites four to six.

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J.S. BACH: Suite No. 1 in G Major; Suite No. 2 in d minor and Suite No. 3 in C Major – Hopkinson Smith, German Theorbo – Naïve

J.S. Bach’s collection of suites for solo cello stand alongside his greatest creations, monuments to his genius for musical composition. Lutenist Hopkinson Smith has transcribed the first three Bach’s Cello Suites for the German Theorbo, a large Renaissance lute. While these adaptations are not by the composer, certainly they fall into the realm of acceptability. At least that is the way I listen to them. Bach is known as a recycler of material previously composed by himself and noted for borrowing from other composers.

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J.S. BACH: Suite No. 4 in B-flat Major; Suite No. 6 in D Major; Suite in g minor (Suite No. 5 in c minor) – Hopkinson Smith, Baroque lute – Naïve

Lutenist Hopkinson Smith successfully completes his remarkable survey of the cello suites in his arrangements for lute of Bach’s fourth and sixth cello suites, plus Bach’s own arrangement of the fifth suite on this vivid sounding compact disc. Smith transcribed the Cello Suites four and six for a 13-course Baroque lute. Smith uses Bach’s transcription of the Fifth Suite, but with a transposition down for the Baroque lute.

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Review: Hopkinson Smith

[...] The audience was dropped into the musical world of the time - a fascinating experience more intense than in a choral or instrumental group experience.

We were guided by the masterly playing of Hopkinson Smith, one of the great lutenists who is also, quite clearly, a master of the baroque guitar. [...]

The large audience loved it all, not the least Smith's lovely dry explanations of just what he was going to play. [...] 

by John Button (The Dominion Post, Wellington, NZ)

Bach: Suites Nos. 1, 2 & 3

Like many other composers of his time, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) reused and rewrote much of his earlier material, often transcribing entire works for new instruments. So it probably would not have surprised him that musicians today are doing the same things with his music. Theorobist Hopkinson Smith follows up his successful album of Bach's Cello Suites 4, 5 & 6 transcribed for lute with the present disc of Nos. 1, 2 & 3, saying he transcribed the latter for theorbo because he finds the instrument more ideally suited in sound and aesthetic to the first three suites.

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Hopkinson Smith, Bach: Suites Nos. 1, 2, 3 (Naïve)

Bach's cello suites are particularly well suited to these transcriptions for the German theorbo by master lutenist Hopkinson Smith: the instrument's longer strings, combined with the full, resonant quality of its dozen double-string courses, allow for a much more satisfying representation of the lower registers than a standard lute could afford, and more ably realise the chordal intimations of the cello parts. In some ways, they improve on the originals, the nimble interplay of plucked lines imparting a rolling momentum to the performance not possible on the cello. This is especially evident in the Suite No 1, which includes the most natural and satisfying transcriptions in the Prelude and Gigue sections, which bookend the piece with its most potent melodies.

by Andy Gill (The Independent)

An Afternoon with Hopkinson Smith

HOPKINSON SMITH is involved with music in such a pure and direct manner that he might best be described as a composer’s performer, viewing each musical text as a hermetic entity demanding questions, discovery, analysis, sensitivity, and intimacy from the performer in order to unlock its secrets. There may be no other performer on the early music scene who has a broader mastery of plucked strings as well as a deep knowledge of the literature for each: 11- and 13-course Baroque lute, Renaissance lutes of all types, vihuela, Baroque guitar, Renaissance guitar, and theorbo.

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Dowland

On the frontispiece of many an early edition of Dowland’s works you can find Musica seated on a cloud, lute in hand, while Mercury gestures towards her from a fluffy promontory. It’s a nice image, and while I might be inviting a hail of feminist vituperation, there’s no question that the softly swelling curves of the lute reinforce its Renaissance reputation as the Queen of Instruments to the Kingly organ.

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New York Times - Dowland: A Dream

Before it was supplanted by the keyboard and the violin early in the 17th century, the lute was the touring virtuoso's instrument of choice, and the English composer John Dowland was probably its greatest player. Contemporary accounts suggest as much, as does the varied body of lute music he left behind, most of it vastly more colorful and inventive than that of his contemporaries anywhere in Europe. His Fantasies - essentially, written-down improvisations - are richly contrapuntal and full of captivating harmonic twists.

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