The lute in it's heyday was valued for the same reasons people are drawn to it today, hundreds of years out of chronology: it's soft voice, it's beauty of tone, it's subtlety. Life has arguably gotten noisier. Perhaps because of, rather than in spite of it, the lute still has a compelling voice. It speaks in a strong whisper that can be heard clearly from the back of a quiet cathedral. The music on this CD comes from a change of epoch. Polyphony ("many voices") dominated art music right to 1600. Particularly in the 16th century, the output of polyphonic madrigals, motets, and masses is astonishing; there are more masterpieces in that oeuvre than are likely to be heard again. Late in the century, as polyphonic structures became ever denser, a "new" style, one that featured the single voice carrying a text, was emerging. This was the inception of the Stile Moderno, what we call the Baroque. Their structure was homophonic--a melody and chords. The first generation of Moderno practitioners didn't abandon polyphony wholesale: contrapuntal episodes were juxtaposed with florid passaggi over chords. As in the Renaissance (Stile Antico), vocal composition led the development, but the style was quickly assimilated by instrumental ensembles and soloists. The lutenist-composers on this recording had feet in both worlds. They all lived in Italy; Kapsperger in Rome, Piccinini in Ferrara, Terzi in Bologna, and Lorenzino, Knight of the Lute, whose actual identity is a mystery, in Rome and/or Ferrara. Lorenzino and Terzi (on whose life, if not identity, we also have only scant information) are at least a generation older than Piccinini and Kapsperger. Terzi begins in the most purely Renaissance fashion; as was the model for lutenists much of the preceding century, he sets vocal pieces to the lute, almost verbatim. As was also in fashion, for a second lute, he sets elaborate divisions to adorn the original madrigal or motet. The Knight of the Lute, Lorencini Romani was Terzi's contemporary. His sense of polyphony is masterful, but quirky, and it is routinely interrupted by florid divisions, very much in the early baroque style. Alessendro Piccinini composed for theorbo, the large cousin of the lute consciously invented as the primary instrument for Baroque accompaniment. He also invented the liuto attiorbato, which is named as the preferred instrument for his compositions for the lute. And yet: although assimilating the developing ideas of the Baroque (and modern) major/minor key system, his compositions are very assiduously polyphonic. Taken in chronological context, we would call him "conservative." Finally, we have Kapsperger. Unlike the others, he wrote not just for lute and theorbo, but also prolifically for instrumental ensembles and voice, including ecclesiastical works and operas. He fell into disrepute when a former ally turned against him in print. His music was reexamined in the fever of scholarship of the late 20th century; it is a vital rediscovery. His music captures the essence of the nascent Baroque on one lute.