De Visee: La Musique De La Chambre Du Roy Vol 2 / Marchese, Ippolito, Tomadin, Staropoli

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VISÉE La Musique de la Chambre du Roy, Vol. 1 Manuel Staropoli (rcr, Baroque fl); Massimo Marchese (thb); Christiano Contadin (vdg) BRILLIANT 94154 (55:22)

VISÉE La Musique de la Chambre du Roy, Vol. 2 Manuel Staropoli (rcr, Baroque fl); Massimo Marchese (thb); Rosita Ippolito (vdg); Manuel Tomadin (hpd) BRILLIANT 94437 (54:29)

After the pointed polemical exchange I recently had with two letter writers over a previous review of a disc of music by Robert de Visée (see issue 37:3 for the exchange and 37:1 for the review that prompted it), one might think I would shy away from reviewing another Visée CD anytime soon. However, these two discs arrived, and I am happy to review them. Here I will not revisit points of that controversy, except to state that on the hotly contested issues of de Visée’s conjectured birth and death dates, these two releases opt for c. 1655–1733.

Between them, these two discs present the 10 suites that comprise the composer’s third and final published compilation of his works, the Pièces de théorbe et de luth mises en partition, dessus et basse from 1716. Each suite consists of five or six movements, most commonly consisting of an allemande, courante, sarabande, gigue, and gavotte, with an initial prelude added in some instances. There are occasional substitutions: e.g., a menuet or rondeau replaces a gigue or gavotte. As the movement titles indicate, these are mostly dances of a slower, more stately character, set to music of elegant gravity and reflectiveness. The emphasis throughout is on atmosphere, not virtuoso display.

To my knowledge, these two releases constitute the first integral recording of these suites, and so they are welcome on that ground alone. That said, the music appears here in an idiosyncratic guise. As the anthology title states, these pieces were conceived by the composer for performance on the theorbo or lute; but here they are arranged for recorder and basso continuo, with (irony of ironies) the theorbo present as part of the supporting accompaniment. Of course, it was common practice for such pieces to be adapted to and played on various solo instruments; but the booklet notes rather stretch the point in ignoring the publication title and asserting instead that “in the frontispiece de Visée does not specify any particular instrument, which leaves plenty of leeway in the choice of the solo instrument.” (With more justification, they also cite an Avertissement attributed to Visée that preceded the original publication, which suggested harpsichord, viola da gamba, and violin as suitable instruments for the dessus part.)

The notes further explain that for the second CD, a harpsichord was added to the basso continuo ensemble in order to “widen the range of timbre, and thereby gratify the listener with greater variety.” For further variety, three different recorders (treble, descant, and bass) are employed, and the harpsichord gets a couple of solo turns as well. The discs also include three additional brief pieces, “Les Sylvains de Couperin,” “Entrée d’Apollon” and a Chaconne, that are performed on solo theorbo.

Whatever one makes of the issue of instrumentation, these are nonetheless stylish and winning performances in their chosen guise. While partisans of theorbo, lute, or guitar may be disappointed or chagrined, fans of the recorder and lovers of Baroque dance music in general can rejoice. The recorded sound balances all the instruments well; the booklet notes are somewhat skimpy on the composers and the works themselves, but provide extensive biographical notes on the performers along with photos. Finally, the price certainly is right; duly recommended.

FANFARE: James A. Altena

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: BRI94437

  • UPC: 5028421944371

  • Label: Brilliant Classics

  • Composer: Robert de Visée

  • Performer: Manuel Staropoli, Manuel Tomadin, Massimo Marchese, Rosita Ippolito