Dowland: Corranto (P 100)

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Dowland: Corranto (P 100) The Coranto (or Courante, or in the original MS Corranto) was an Italian “running dance” first mentioned in print in the mid 1500’s. According to Poulton and Lam, this is Dowland’s only courante, and it appears in the Lute Book of Margaret Board, who “must have been a player of considerable ability”. The date of the MS appears to be 1621 or later, so we are at the Renaissance / Baroque boundary.

The version as it appears in the Margaret Bord Lute Book, from a facsimile at The MS was written after JD received his doctorate in 1621.
It is barred in simple triple time, probably equivalent to 3/8. The single and double dots under the upper notes represent the first and second RH fingers. The occasional dot to the left of a note (e.g. the first b in bar 3) probably indicates an ornament.

In its homeland in the Renaissance the coranto was apparently a quick dance, but in France in the Baroque period it became very popular and far more stately. Nigel North plays this piece on his lute at a cracking 80 bpm – phew!

The piece is set mostly in 6/8 time, but with characteristic hemiola excursions, most noticeable in bars 10 and 16.

I have followed both Dowland’s MS, and Poulton and Lam’s interpretation, as closely as I can in this transcription, but there have been compromises, especially in bars 19 and 20 where the lack of lower strings makes voicing difficult.

It looks at first sight very easy, but in the second part the change in rhythm means I have to concentrate really hard. You can find versions set in 3/4 time on the wonderful PDF Minstrel website, which make an interesting comparison with the 6/8 version here.

FINGERED VERSION: the (partial) fingering for index (i) and middle (m) fingers is derived from that on the MS (see image above), which appears to have been used as a teaching aid. I imagine that the fingerings would apply to the uke as well as to the lute.

The interpretation is considered in detail in this blog post. One can regard the strength of the digits as being ranked thumb > middle > index, so “i” indicates the use of a lighter touch than “m”, to give the desired pronounced rhythmic pattern. It is worthwhile noting that the starred notes in the transcription, which Poulton & Lam allocated to a second voice, are shown in the MS as being plucked by “i”.

I must admit that I find it non-intuitive to use the first finger on a higher string and the second finger on a lower string when adjacent notes are played.

I have not presumed to provide fingerings for the other notes.

The transcriptions for low-G ukulele are available to download free in the following versions:

  • pdf
  • pdf with fingering
  • TablEdit
  • MIDI

Have fun!

Tags: #corranto #dowland

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