Cuthbert Hely was an English lutenist who lived in the first half of the seventeenth century. Although officially "nothing is known about him," Hely copied seven of his own compositions -- four fantasias, two preludes, and a sarabande -- into the lute book owned by Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury. At one time, it was believed that Hely may have been Lord Herbert's lute teacher and that he was the compiler of the lute book. Both these points seemRead more unlikely, as it is recorded that Lord Herbert learned the lute around 1603 "with very little or no teaching," and Hely's contributions to Lord Herbert's lute book are only found in the hand of "Scribe C," whose entries are the latest in the manuscript, datable to 1639-1640. Only one other work has been found of Cuthbert Hely, an air in four parts found in GB-Lbl Add.18940, a manuscript source dated to about 1650.
Though the survival of his work is scant, Cuthbert Hely's music is very highly regarded as a prime example of seventeenth century English lute music at its summit. It appears that Hely was almost alone among English lutenists in attempting to bring Elizabethan "Golden Age" practices into the first phase of the Baroque era, and his melancholy, sometimes torturously emotional style is clearly carried over from the work of earlier composers such as John Dowland. It is assumed that Hely must have been old enough to learn such style -- old hat by 1640 -- first hand, and that he may have been related to composer Benjamin Hely, who published The Compleat Violist in 1699. If they were brothers, then Cuthbert Hely may have been born around 1670. The only other thing known about him is record of a Cuthbert Hely who lived in Ludlow, England, during this era who may or may not have been the composer. No evidence exists for his death, which may have occurred before his air was entered into GB-Lbl Add.18940. Read less