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CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS

Robert de VISÉE (c.1655-?1733)
Suite in C [9:03]
Suite in A minor [9:21]
Suite in D minor [9:32]
Suite in G [10:05]
Suite in G minor [10:42]
Les Sylvains de Couperin [6:21]
Manuel Staropoli (recorder, Baroque flute)
Massimio Marchese (theorbo)
Cristiano Contadin (viola da gamba)
rec. Ancelle della Carità, Rome, 26-28 February 2010. DDD

Experience Classicsonline

French composer Robert de Visée's Pièces de théorbe et de luth mises en partition, dessus et basse was published in Paris in 1716. This enterprising new release by Brilliant Classics brings to life five of its ten Suites in period instrument performances by experienced Italian soloists Massimo Marchese, Manuel Staropoli and Cristiano Contadin, who all have an impressive background in early music.
Critical and public appreciation of de Visée's small body of works is gradually emerging, along with recordings. One recent fine release on Metronome saw Dutch instrumentalist Fred Jacobs perform three suites of theorbo pieces, different from those played on this disc - warmly reviewed here. Elizabeth Kenny recorded a further suite, again different, for a Linn Records anthology published towards the end of last year - see review.
Like de Visée's slightly better known guitar suites, those for theorbo and lute consist of typical Baroque dance movements, adhering approximately to the sequence allemande - courante - sarabande - gigue - gavotte - rondeau. They’re always brief: the average movement length for all the Suites is only around 90 seconds.
The musical treats in store for the listener are evident right away - the opening Suite in C, particularly the final three movements, is quite sublime, and the equal of anything similar by Couperin or Lully. As gorgeous Suite follows gorgeous Suite, it quickly becomes obvious that de Visée's music is strikingly original, despite its simplicity of means and structure. This is not dance music of a frivolous or frothy nature, but the work of an inspired mind, dignified and charged with emotional depth.
By way of interlude before the final two Suites, one of de Visée's best known works, at least by guitarists, Les Sylvains de M. Couperin, is given a delightful outing on the theorbo by Massimo Marchese.
Given the quality of the music and the convincing, authentic-sounding performances of the three soloists, it is a pity that the CD is so far on the short side - more forgivable, perhaps, if the remainder of de Visée's 1716 volume are soon to follow on a separate disc. The bargain price tag is a further salve.
The booklet is attractive in an understated way, with brief but adequate detail in well-written notes. Sound quality is very good, production values high, although microphones sometimes pick up more breath than desirable - Marchese's intakes during Les Sylvains being a case in point.
For those who appreciate anything from François Couperin's magnificent chamber music to the 'proto-guitar' classics of the late-Renaissance masters, this CD is a very safe bet.
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