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CORBETTA / VISEE: Suites for Guitars and Theorbos

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Francesco Corbetta (c. 1615-1681) & Robert de Visee (c.1650 -c.1723)

Suites for two Guitars and Theorbos

Francisco Corbetta, originally Corbetti, wasborn in the Italian city of Pavia. He settled in Bologna, where he establishedhimself as a fine teacher of the guitar. After serving in this capacity at theCourts of the Duke of Mantua and the Archduke of Austria, he moved to Paris toteach the young King Louis XIV, who had developed a passionate interest in theguitar at the age of fifteen; so it was that this then-Spanish instrumentbecame popular at the Court and, later, throughout the rest of France. Sometime in the early 1660s he came to London, where he taught King Charles II andmembers of the nobility. sparking off a fashionable guitar mania. By 1671 hehad returned to Paris where, except for a brief visit to London in 1675, heremained for the rest of his life.

Robert de Visee was born and died in France.

Our earliest knowledge of him is that he was called to entertain the Dauphin in1682, as the Preface to his firstpublished book (1682) confirms. It was not until 1719 that he was appointed Ma?«tre de guitare du Roy and after oneyear he resigned in favour of his son. Thereafter his activities were reportedonly occasionally and briefly. He enjoyed a considerable reputation as a playerof the guitar, the lute, the theorbo and the viola da gamba. The theorbo badbeen 'imported' by Italian musicians and was used in Lully's ballets; togetherwith the guitar it gained in popularity as an accompanying instrument and inreinforcing the bass line of the continuo in chamber music, which the lute,then already in decline, could not do. De Visee thus played an important partin establishing both the guitar and the theorbo.

Both Corbetta and de Visee were regarded asthe greatest players of their time, and their relationship was both friendlyand, in effect, that of teacher and pupil. Corbetta was intimately involved inthe life of both the French and English courts and probably passed his secrets(both musical and political) 10 de Visee, whose gratitude was enshrined in his tombeau on the death of his master, theonly such tribute written by anyone.

At that time the guitar was played in twobasic fashions: battute - chordsstrummed in often complex patterns, and pizzicate,in which individual notes were separately played (as they were onthe lute), making it possible to realise the internal structure and dynamics oftextures. Of Corbetta' s five known published books (two others may have beenlost), the two volumes of La GuitarreRoyalle, dedicated to Charles II (London, 1671) and Louis XIV(Paris, 1674), contained the most refined music, skilfully admixing the twoplaying techniques. In the Preface tohis book of 1674 Corbetta expresses the hope, that the music will be to theKing's taste (which was rather less sophisticated than that of Charles II). Theevocation of the sounds of war in La Prisede Maastricht doubtless pleased Louis, as did their celebration ofthat small victory. It is from the book of 1674 that the duos recorded on thisdisc are taken. L'Allemande aimee du Roy wasoriginally a guitar solo (in the book of 1571) but Corbetta also produced aversion for three voices with bassocontinuo, from which it has been possible to derive one for two guitars,taking into account the particular character of the duos in the later (1674)book. The Fanfares are remarkablefor the alarming and incongruous dissonances with which their second halvesbegin. The Sarabande du depart du Roy andthe following Passacaille appearas guitar solos.

Robert de Visee, the younger of the two, wasforward-looking. Though he was renowned as a lutenist he devoted most of hiscreative effort to the guitar and theorbo (the 'key' to participation in thechamber music of his day), and largely abandoned the style brise that was beloved of earlier French lutenists) infavour of sustained melodic lines. He declared his style to be "much afterthat of Lully". In 1716 he published Unlivre de pi?¿ces de theorbe et luth, mises en partition dessus et basses...

destinees a ?¬tre jouees au clavecin, ?á la viole et au violon, sur lesquelselles ont toujours ete concertees,
confirming his strong interest inchamber music.

De Visee's duos were derived from existingsolo pieces but are not accompanied solos; instead he added independent secondparts (contreparties), virtuallycapable of standing alone as solos, creating dense contrapuntal textures inwhich the two instruments converse on equal terms. Some of the contreparties here recorded are to befound in privately held manuscripts.

The instruments

During the Baroque period the guitar differedgreatly from today's instrument. It had a smaller body and a lighter sound, andcarried five courses - single or paired strings, the double courses tunedeither in unison or an octave apart. A variety of tunings were in use,permutations of unison- and octave-tuned courses; that adopted by Corbetta,given below, has the lowest (5th) course tuned to the higher octave. This wasdeemed more appropriate to delicate 'art' music than the lower- sounding octavetuning, the additional weight and 'body' of which enhanced strummed popularmusic. The 'baroque' guitar, as it is often termed, was thus an instrumentwithout a true bass.

The theorbo was a large bass-register lute.

Although its principal uses were 'subsidiary' - to the voice and as a member ofthe continuo (the 'rhythmsection' of baroque instrumental groups), a small amount of solo and duo musicwas written for it. The rise of the theorbo overlapped the gradual demise ofthe lute, and its own demise corresponded with that of baroque music per se. The theorbo used in this recordinghas 14 single strings.

Eric Bellocq

Eric Bellocq was born in 1962. He studied withWilliam Christie at the Conservatoire National Superieur in Paris, winning the Premier Prix de guitare in 1983. From 1983to 1989 he took part in numerous concerts and recordings with Les ArtsFlorissants. He regularly performs with the leading baroque ensembles inFrance, and has since 1990 been a member of Dominique Visse's Ensemble ClementJanequin, which has been highly acclaimed for its interpretations of music ofthe renaissance. Eric Bellocq has made over thirty recordings, which range fromlarge-scale productions of orchestral works and operas to small-scale vocaland instrumental works.

Massimo Moscardo

Massimo Moscardo trained as a guitarist, andhis great interest in renaissance and baroque music has led to appearances witha variety of early music ensembles in some of the most prestigious festivals inFrance and abroad. A lutenist with Le Concert Spirituel, he has also appearedwith such leading ensembles as Le Parlement de Musique, Combattimento ConcertAmesterdam and Les Musiciens du Louvre. His recordings for a number of recordlabels include, for Naxos, three volumes of the music of Marc-AntoineCharpentier with Le Concert Spirituel (Naxos 8.553173-75).

Item number 8553745
Barcode 730099474528
Release date 12/01/1999
Category Baroque
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Artists Bellocq, Eric
Moscardo, Massimo
Bellocq, Eric
Moscardo, Massimo
Composers Visee, Robert de
Corbetta, Francesco
Corbetta, Francesco
Visee, Robert de
Disc: 1
Sarabande in A minor for Two Guitars
1 Prelude
2 Allemande
3 Courante
4 Sarabande
5 Gigue et double
6 Villanelle
7 Trompette, Tambour de France et de Suisse fait pou
8 Sarabande 'La Dauphine'
9 Gigue 'cherie du Roy'
10 Fanfare
11 Autre fanfare
12 Alemande 'aymee du Roy'
13 Sarabande du depart du Roy et passacaille
14 Prelude
15 Allemande
16 Gigue
17 Musette
18 Gavotte
19 Chaconne
20 Prelude
21 Allemande
22 Sarabande
23 Passacaille
24 Menuet
25 Sarabande in A minor for Two Guitars
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