de Visée Pieces de Théorbe
The music of Robert de Visée (c1650-c1732) – musician at the courts of Louis XIV and Louis XV, where he excelled in the guitar, the lute, the theorbo and the viola da gamba – immediately evokes that of his contemporaries and chamber music partners François Couperin and Antoine Forqueray, as well as that of Lully himself; in the case of the latter, often more directly, as in the four arrangements from the operas included here.
Like Lully and Couperin, Visée relished the graceful and melodious as well as the rustic – witness the gigue based on Le rémouleur and the rondeau La muzette in the G major Suite. Like the viola da gamba exponent Forqueray, he savoured the darker qualities of his instrument, the exploiting of which is fully demonstrated here by the moving La plainte ou Tombeau de Mesdemoiselles de Visée, Allemande de Mr Leur Père.
Jacobs plays a French theorbo by luthier Michael Lowe, who in a brief note points out the differences between Italian and French models, for example the relative convexity of the bodies and length of the necks. The sound is quite wonderful: clear, rich and sonorous, with a piquancy and flavour all of its own.
Combine this with Jacobs’s masterly playing – which features the tasteful use of expressive devices such as notes inégales, and subtle attenuation of appoggiaturas to the point where each more resembles a vocal port de voix – and the full extent of Visée’s genius for simply expressing great and sometimes melancholy truths is all too evident. This is a superb release.