Miguel de Fuenllana - Orphenica Lyra (1554)

Miguel de Fuenllana (c. 1500 – c. 1580, sources don't agree on dates) composed for guitar and vihuela.  Fuenllana was a chamber musician for Elisabeth da Valois (wife of King Phillip II) from 1562 – 1568.  In 1554, Fuenllana published his book his book Libro musica para vihuela, intitulado Orphenica Lyra.  


Orphenica Lyra is divided into 6 sections or "books" (libra), and the bulk of the book is dedicated to the common vihuela (6-course vihuela).  Music for the 4-course (renaissance) guitar and 5-course vihuela are also included in the book.  Orphenica Lyra contains original compositions by Fuenllana as well as his arrangements of songs for the vihuela (the book uses red ink in the tablature to indicate melody lines for the songs!).  Fuennlana also gives some instruction for playing the vihuela, and is credited with being the first to propose using the index and middle fingers for scale passages (use of the thumb and index finger in alternation was the common technique for scale passages on the lute at the time, so this is a significant development in right-hand technique).  The notation used in this book is Italian Tablature (described here).  

Cover of Fuenllana's Orphenica Lyra (1554)

The 6th section (or book) of Orphenica Lyra contains a number of compositions for the 4-course guitar (guitarra), as well as the 6-course vihuela.  This section also includes music written for an instrument that Fuenllana calls a 5-course vihuela (vihuela de cinco ordenes).  It is possible that these 5-course instrument compositions are the first pieces written for the 5-course guitar.  The 5-course pieces in Orphenica Lyra require a tuning equivalent to the first 5-courses of the modern guitar (the same as the 5-course guitar - see my article on the History of the Guitar for more information).  

Cover for the 6th section/book (libra sexto) of Orphenica Lyra, noting compositions for the vihuela, the vihuela de cinco ordenes (5-course vihuela) and the guitarra (4-course guitar).

Transcription of Fuenllana's 4th Fantasia for 5-course vihuela

Facsimile from Orphenica Lyra, libro sexto.  The 4th of Fuenllana's Fantasias for 5-course vihuela begins on the 3rd line on the page to the left, and continues through the first 3 lines of the page to the right.  Transcription to modern notation shown below.

Transcription of Fuenllana's 4th Fantasia for 5-course vihuela to staff notation and modern guitar tablature, by Johann von Solothurn.

Contents pages from Orphenica Lyra.  As you can see, there is enough material in this book to keep a vihuelist and/or transcriber busy for quite a while!

Johann von Solothurn

Johann is a bard and Court Musician in the Kingdom of Atlantia.  Johann enjoys sharing his art.  If you would like Johann to assist you in organizing or judging bardic/music competitions, teaching classes, or if you would like him to drop by your camp and perform, just send him a note (email below).  

Johann von Solothurn

Barony of Black Diamond

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