Gitaar Hoek




Robert de Visée

c. 1655 | 1732-3


French guitarist, theorbo, lute and viol player and composer. He was possibly a pupil of Corbetta. He is first mentioned (as theorbist and guitarist) by Le Gallois in 1680, and about that time became a chamber musician to Louis XIV. In the dedication of his first guitar book (1682) he mentions that he was often called upon by the king to amuse the dauphin, and the diary of the Count of Dangeau from the year 1686 states that he regularly played the guitar at the king’s bedside in the evenings. Between 1694 and 1705 Visée frequently performed at the French court, particularly at the evening gatherings of Mme de Maintenon, with the flautists Descoteaux and Philibert, the harpsichordist Jean-Baptiste Buterne and the viol player Antoine Forqueray. In 1709 he was appointed to the post of singer in the royal chamber in recognition of his service to the court, in which he had not until then held a position. In 1719 he was formally appointed guitar teacher to the king, although he had actually been the king’s instructor since 1695; his son François succeeded him in this post in 1721. A letter of Jean Rousseau of 1688 indicates that Visée was a respected musician at Versailles and that he also played the viol. Visée’s two published guitar books contain a total of 12 suites as well as several miscellaneous pieces. The longer suites generally begin with the usual allemande, courante, sarabande and gigue and end with lighter pieces such as the gavotte, minuet and bourrée. In the shorter suites there is no consistent order of movements. The Suite no.6 in C minor includes a beautiful tombeau dedicated to Corbetta. Visée’s guitar compositions are intended for a five-course instrument tuned a/a–d/d'–g/g–b/b–e'. Exploiting the instrument’s resources to the fullest extent, they constitute along with the later works of Corbetta the apex of the French Baroque guitar literature. Visée’s works for Baroque lute and theorbo comprise the same types of dance pieces as are found in his guitar music and often duplicate the guitar works, although it is difficult to determine for which instrument the original versions were written. The fact that a substantial number of theorbo works survives in manuscript sources shows the regard in which Visée was held. Though they lack character pieces and Italian influence, they reveal him as a fitting partner for his colleagues Marin Marais and François Couperin. These pieces also include various tombeaux as well as arrangements of pieces by Lully, Marais, Forqueray and François Couperin.

Robert de Visée


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