De Visée was the perfect incarnation of the complete, wholly fulfilled, long-lived and acclaimed musician of his times: guitarist, theorbist, lutenist, violist, cantore and composer. We do not have certain information concerning his birth and musical education, but all of the historical sources note that he was active in the Parisian area.
Born sometime between 1650 and 1660, he most probably studied guitar with Francesco Corbetta. Around 1680 he became a chamber musician in the service of Louis XIV, though with no formal title. In 1709 he obtained the post of singer of the royal chamber and only in 1719 he was officially recognised as having been the Roy-Soleil’s guitar teacher, though he had in reality taught him the instrument since the death of Corbetta in 1681.
His theorbo music is contained in roughly forty manuscripts and in one printed volume. This recording includes pieces contained in the Besancon “Vaudry de Saizenay”, Agen, Pn Rés 1106 manuscripts.
Today we appreciate the grandeur of the Roi-Soleil’s era through its arts, literature and historical documents. Even before coming to know the music of this age we might imagine it was solemn, sustained and grandiose. On the contrary, the music that you will hear through Francesca Torelli’s theorbo represents less the flamboyant side of court art and more its intimate aspect.
De Visée’s relationship with the Roi-Soleil was rather private, and reached its daily culmination in a solo concert for the King’s ears only. We can imagine the soave and ‘insinuating’ tone (as it was described by a renowned musician of the time) of the plucked stringed instrument as it lured the King into a mood of care-free relaxation.
In these compositions by de Visée the musical discourse is at times mainstream, reflecting the stylistic norms of the suite of that era, whilst at other times it reveals pure and innovative expressive liberty. The ornaments abound throughout, not as superfluous embellishments but rather as an integral part of the musical language, resulting in sinuous phrasing. De Visée follows the practice already established by French lutenists to compose non-metrical Preludes, meaning that they are not subdivided by bar-lines, allowing for freedom of interpretation. He takes this musical form to extremes by including strong dissonances and free ‘flights’ of musical fancy. Les Sylvains is a piece by Francois Couperin for harpsichord which de Visée transcribed for the theorbo. In turn Couperin bore witness to the reciprocal esteem of these two worthy musicians, active in the same years, by taking a gavotte by de Visée and adapting it for the harpsichord.
Even though modern listeners might be immersed in the sonorities of pop and rock, I believe that they may fully grasp the sentiments and the atmosphere of de Visée’s music, which is capable of transporting us far from daily life into a dimension of passionate intimacy.
hifi lofi] 01-Prelude Allemande La Royalle (4:35)
[hifi lofi] 02-Courante (1:48)
[hifi lofi] 03-Sarabande (2:04)
[hifi lofi] 04-Gavotte (1:00)
[hifi lofi] 05-Prelude Chaconne (7:35)
[hifi lofi] 06-Les Sylvains (F Couperin) (3:56)
[hifi lofi] 07-La Muzette Rondeau (4:54)
[hifi lofi] 08-Ouverture de la Grotte de Versailles (JB Lully) (3:49)
[hifi lofi] 09-Entree d’Apollon (JB Lully) (3:33)
[hifi lofi] 10-Prelude Allemande (3:06)
[hifi lofi] 11-Contredanse La Fustemberg (3:06)
[hifi lofi] 12-Passacaille (2:55)
[hifi lofi] 13-Prelude Allemande (3:54)
[hifi lofi] 14-Courante (1:43)
[hifi lofi] 15-Sarabande (3:25)
[hifi lofi] 16-Gigue (1:40)
[hifi lofi] 17-Chaconne (2:19)
[hifi lofi] 18-La Mascarade Rondeau (1:49)
[hifi lofi] 19-Les Folies d’Espagne (anon) (3:46)