Birth: 1474 in Brescia, Italy
Death: after 1548 in Brescia, Italy
Genre: Chamber Music, Keyboard
Vincenzo Capirola is considered one of the most important composers and performers of lute music of his time. In fact, it is generally held that he was the preeminent composer/pedagogue of lute music from the second and third decades of the sixteenth century. His famous book on lute composition and playing (generally called the Capirola Lutebook), dates to the period of 1515-1520.
Not much is known about the life of Capirola, though he seems to have spent much of his life in Brescia, the city of his birth. Born in 1474, he appears to have grown up there, since the next record of his whereabouts comes from 1489, when he was a resident in that Italian city. Though he seems to have spent most, perhaps even the whole of the ensuing decade there, too, he may well have traveled and lived abroad for a good portion of the remainder of his life.
Certainly he had made a name for himself as a lutenist in Venice in 1517. By that time he had students there and was probably already at work on the music and text that would make up his famous Lutebook. Moreover, in his authoritative book about Capirola and his works, Compositione di Meser Vincenzo Capirola: Lute-book (circa 1517), twentieth century musicologist Otto Gombosi conjectures that the composer might well have been the lute virtuoso who had performed in England before Henry VIII in 1515. What makes this speculation plausible is that Capirola was a nobleman and certainly had the means for extensive travel and a rare talent to showcase.
In any event, Capirola was a recognized master performer and composer of lute music by the mid-1510s. His lutebook was copied out by a student in the period 1515-1520. The work contains both easy pieces and difficult ones, and features lute transcriptions of popular songs of the day, as well as various other works, including original compositions. Documents show that Capirola was back in Brescia in 1548, where he most likely died a short time later.
- Robert Cummings (All Music Guide)