Ricardo Leitão Pedro – Early Music: Tenor & Lutenist

Doctoral Project

Pietrobono Burzellis dal chitarino: the art of a master improviser on the lute

The purpose of my research project is to shed light on the practice of fifteenth-century lutenist Pietrobono Burzelli (?1417–1497) with particular attention to his improvisation and ornamentation techniques in the context of the lute duo ensemble. Additionally, I will draw a picture of Pietrobono's probable repertoire through confronting material commonly used in musical improvisation in the fifteenth century with the tunes mentioned in documentation regarding his teaching and performances, while placing the lute within contemporary instrumental traditions.

Pietrobono's place of importance in fifteenth-century musical culture has long been acknowledged, and the on-going relevance of the lute duo ensemble, in which he specialized, is well established for both the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. As a result, a few generations of modern lutenists have so far been experimenting with different improvisatory techniques in their approach to lute music from before and around 1500. However, little has been published or methodically researched aiming to provide today's performers with concrete material to develop extemporizing skills in the context of late-medieval lute repertoire.

In this study, I will draw on my personal experience as a lutenist and performer of medieval repertoires to apply insights gathered from primary and secondary sources into practical experimentation on the lute in both solo and duo contexts. By the end of this research, practical tools for the development of extemporizing skills in the modern instrumentalist will be produced, suited to be applied on the lute or any instrument performing fifteenth-century repertoires.

First supervisor: Univ.Prof. Dr. Anne Marie Dragosits, ABPU
Second supervisor: Prof. Dr. Markus Grassl, mdw
External third supervisor: Prof. Dr. Marc Lewon, Schola Cantorum Basel


Always fascinated by singer-instrumentalists from Antiquity to modern times, Ricardo Leitão Pedro is one of the few performers today to revive the early practice of canto al liuto, accompanying himself on different plucked string instruments (medieval and renaissance lutes, theorbo, baroque guitar). He first picked up the lute at the age eighteen. A year later he was accepted for a bachelor’s degree in early music at ESMAE (Porto) during which he was granted an Erasmus scholarship allowing him to be one of the last students of lutenist Eugène Ferré at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et Danse de Lyon. He later completed degrees at the renowned Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in lute (classes of Crawford Young and Marc Lewon) and singing (class of Dominique Vellard).

A member of I Discordanti and Concerto di Margherita (winner EEEmerging ensemble), he performs regularly around Europe and is often invited to perform with ensembles and orchestras such as Orquestra XXI, Cappela Sanctae Crucis and La Boz Galana.His lute duo with Guilherme Barroso was awarded 2nd prize at the JIMA competition (Portugal) for chamber music (1st prize not given).

As a composer/improviser, Ricardo wrote the music for the trapeze performance ‘Planisfério’ by Joana Martins and worked with Rostislav Novak (Cirk La Putyka) in his research group at the contemporary circus festival "Die Originale" in Berlin in 2018. His first solo album "Fantasticaria" (2020, self-released) is devoted to the music of Bellerofonte Castaldi for voice and theorbo. He is preparing an edition of the "Thibault lute manuscript" to be published by the label Terem-Music.

Ricardo is a doctoral student at Anton Bruckner Private University with a thesis on fifteenth-century star lutenist Pietrobono Burzelli.