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.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk