Composers in Renaissance Spain created much of their music for an instrument little known today called the vihuela da mano (viol of the hand). For reasons that are not entirely clear, the Spanish preferred the vihuela over the lute, even though the lute was by far the most popular plucked-string instrument in the rest of Europe during the Renaissance era. The extant repertoire for the vihuela includes seven printed books of vihuela music which contain approximately 50% of the music printed in Spain during the entire 16th century. And, while the sheer quantity of music attests to it's popularity, the quality of the music composed for the instrument proves that the vihuela was considered the instrument par excellence for the performance of the most refined instrumental music and accompanied song. Spain's most gifted vihuelistas, including Luys Milan, Alonso Mudarra, Miguel de Fuenllana, and Luys Narvaéz, were all virtuosos on the instrument and each composed at least one book of music for the vihuela, some of which is recorded here. Throughout most of the 16th century, Spain stood at the center of political and economic power in Europe. Spain was in many ways the cultural center of Renaissance Europe as well, a fact often neglected in modern history books. This is especially the case if one recalls that the Netherlands, the Low Countries, and the Kingdom of Naples all stood within the great sweep of Spain's dominions during the Siglio de oro. This was the great "Golden Age" of Renaissance Spain and music for the vihuela da mano shares the artistic stage of with the likes of "El Greco" and the great Spanish poet Miguel de Cervantes. While generally favoring the lute throughout the 16th century, composers in Italy occasionally called for the use of an instrumentwhich was very similar, if not identical, to the Spanish vihuela, called the viola da mano. From the very first, publications of Renaissance lute music in Italy regularly included pieces ala spagnola, or in the 'Spanish style.' One example, the Calata ala spagnola heard on this recording, is only one of several dance pieces ala spagnola in Joanambrosio Dalza's Intabolatura de leuto...Libro quarto (1508). In addition, there are dozens of compositions built upon a popular Spanish melody known as la spagna, which appear in countless collections of Italian lute music. Phillip Rukavina (vihuela da mano) studied lute with Hopkinson Smith at the Academie Musical in Villecroze, France and in Basel, Switzerland with a generous grant from the Jerome Foundation. He received a second grant from the Jerome Foundation in 2004. Phillip is a founding member of the Venere Lute Quartet, which has performed nationwide and recently in Milan, Italy (2006). The ensemble has released two CDs on the Lute Society of America label, including Sweet Division (2003), and Palestrina's Lute (2006). Phillip is a frequent guest lutenist with the Rose Ensemble, appearing on the ensemble's recent CD release Celebremos el Niño (2005)and An American Christmas (2008).