17th. century French guitar music
Israel Golani, guitar
The music on this CD represents this zenith in writing for the guitar. The pieces in A minor come from Corbetta’s first French publication titled La Guitarre Royalle. In this outstanding collection Corbetta designates strummed chords to be the rhythmic engine throughout each piece. At the same time the notes of an elaborate melody are realized by plucking or by being placed at the top of a strummed chord. Occasionally inner voices are also introduced, functioning as counter-melodies. Both chords and melodies are extensively embellished. Furthermore, Corbetta nonchalantly adds dissonant notes which “happen to be there” as the chords are strummed. At occasions these dissonances are not resolved – adding a jazzy flavor to the music.
After almost 40 years in service at the court of Louis XIV, theorbo player Henry Grenerin published a guitar book consisting of 16 suites. The suite in D minor includes the regular suite components such as the free Prelude, the stately Allemande, and the brisk Courante followed by the slow Sarabande. These dances typically alternate between double and triple meter. Curiously, the Gigue that follows is written not in the usual 6/8 but in double meter, as are four other gigues in this collection. The Passacaille is a harmonic progression repeated in variation. As the piece unfolds, Grenerin introduces more dissonances and increasingly animated chordal writing, culminating in strummed variations with a Spanish touch.
The thirst for new pieces for the guitar led to the creation of many compilations by enthusiasts who collected their favorite music. Several guitar manuscripts include dances from famous operas and ballets which would have been reproduced at more private occasions. Logistille and Entrée d’Apollon are wellknown pieces that appeared in stage pieces written by Lully. The arranger (probably de Visée) transposed the bass an octave higher, reduced the orchestral parts to strummed chords and retained the most important melodic lines, thus conveying the essence of these pieces in an intimate way fit for the “petit musique de societé”.
Other collections include pieces of a pastoral character, serving either to reflect existing folk dances, or create “new” ones. The anonymous Mariez Moy represents a folk tune accompanied by simple chords, whereas La Vielle shows the same melodic simplicity, this time supported by two repeated bourdon notes, creating the effect of a characteristic peasant’s dance. Isabel van Langenhove, a Flemish lady whose guitar book consists of many French dances, added some Spanish folk dances such as La Bonita and L’Otoñera.
They reveal, with their uneven meter and hemiolas, the influence of Spanish music during Spain’s occupation of the Southern Netherlands. Pieces such as Mascarade, Vilanelle and La Forlane, however, were skillfully composed to satisfy the fashion for real (or mock) folk culture in the court.