Composers: Jean-Paul Paladin 
Compositions: Fantasias
Performers: Alex McCartney lute
Catalogue Number: Veterum Musica VM022

I rather like the gentle irony of crowdfunding for music from the 16th century. Thanks to online donors, this release is out on Veterum Musica, a self-described micro record label run by lutenist Alex McCartney that focuses on recording small ensembles or soloists. Their point of difference is that they don’t add any canned reverb to “sweeten” a recording – it’s all in the microphone placement.

I thought I had a solid knowledge of guitar and lute repertoire, but Jean-Paul Paladin is a name new to me. Turns out, before this recording he was new to McCartney as well! Born in Milan and also known as Giovanni Paolo Paladino, he eventually wound up court lutenist to Queen Mary of Scotland.

McCartney says Paladin’s music reminds him of the more famous Francesco da Milano, and I’d agree. There’s the same sense of delight in contrapuntal construction, for instance. McCartney focuses mainly on Paladin’s fantasias (though other bits and pieces are included as well), navigating these complex works with ease. That’s particularly impressive given the demands of Paladin’s intabulations, which ascend to the lute’s high body frets (the lute equivalent of a violinist going off the end of the fingerboard). Overall, a sympathetic recording of a composer who deserves to be better known.

You won’t find this one in your local record shop, but for plucked instrument enthusiasts this will be well worth tracking down online.