1 - Thematic Index with a Table of Concordance
French, English, Italian and Spanish)
Description and excerpts
Some figures...
"Top 4"
Errata & addendum

2 - "Les Deux Livres de Guitare de Robert de Visée"
Front cover and detailed content
Where to buy these books ?

3 - FAQ about Robert De Visée

4 - Biography of Robert de Visée (in french)

5 - More articles about Robert de Visée
A different look at Robert de Visée
Robert de Visée et le théorbe (in French)

Gerard REBOURS has drawn up the very first thematic index and catalogue of concordance for the works of Robert De Visée (published by Editions Symetrie)
This is the foreword of the work, which lists
189 different pieces, 729 when the various versions are taken into account :


Robert de Visée wrote mainly instrumental suites and one might therefore expect a classification of his works to use this musical form as its basis, e.g. 1st suite in A minor, 2nd suite in A major, 3rd suite in D minor and so on. However, upon closer examination it becomes clear that the notion of suite is not as inherent to his works as it is to those of other composers. The pieces in the "3rd suite in D minor" of the Livre de Guittarre of 1682 (1) mentioned above are a case in point as they are to be found dispersed in other suites or parts of suites for treble and bass, for theorbo or for lute, both in the original key and in other keys such as C, G or A. Some are presented as separate pieces or copies and some even appear anonymously as part of a suite by another somewhat unscrupulous composer.(2)
The different official or unofficial versions of these pieces (3) bring to light numerous variations in the contour of voices, harmony, the notation of rhythm and ornament signs. This provides valuable evidence that these preludes and dances could be approached in a number of ways, thus freeing us from musical misconceptions (4) and interpretations which are too literal or stilted in nature.
A classification based on the form of pieces seemed to be the obvious choice as it facilitates cross-references.(5) Each prelude, for example, is presented with its incipit, its main reference (6) and the references of all the other known versions. The same principle is applied to the allemandes, courantes, sarabandes etc.
This catalogue does not include works which were intabulated by Robert deVisée but not actually composed by him.
Finally, there is a table with some statistics drawn from the catalogue.
Although there is no doubt that the majority of these pieces were written by Robert de Visée, a few are of uncertain origin. A case in point is the air "Que la bouteille a d'attraits", R 10.07, which has been attributed to a Mr De Visé but with no mention of the christian name. It is not in keeping with the style of Robert de Visée and might as well have been written by a namesake such as his son François.
The fact that the Allemande R 1.05 has the inscription "de Vizé pere" (meaning "senior") would seem to be proof of there being another composer of the same name.
It is noteworthy that the 730 references set out here do not represent a definitive study (7). There are most certainly other references to be unearthed and any information proffered in this respect would be very much appreciated. My thanks go to Monica Hall who put me in contact with a De Visée tablature owner, Donald Gill who enabled me to identify a manuscript which had no references, to James Tyler who indicated the existence of concordances in a portuguese manuscript, to Rafael Andia who gave me access to a number of works in his private collection, and to François-Pierre Goy who indicated several invaluable sources and gave me much precious advice.

©Gerard REBOURS, Sept. 2001

(1) The earliest known publication by Robert de Visée.
(2) Santiago de Murzia in this instance.
(3) Sometimes more than fifteen.
(4) Rather difficult to avoid if one only refers to the guitar tablatures.
(5) This is with the printed page in mind. Other possibilities could be envisaged for on-screen computer based data.
(6) Priority is given to anthologies printed by the author.
(7) This study was begun in 1988, when I was part of the CNRS Eratto team.
translated by Matthew Daillie

Page top


(* : see an excerpt, in pdf)
This 47 page thematic index includes the incipit of each of the 189 Robert de Visée pieces, which are arranged by type (Preludes, Allemandes, Courantes, Gigues*,...) with columns showing the references for all the other versions, and specific information (such as tonality, title or time-signature) when there is a departure from the basic version. The musician can thus quickly locate the other versions, and find invaluable information concerning the various approaches to melody, rhythm, harmony and ornamentation which are the essence of this musical style.
At the beginning of the work there is an explanation on how to use the catalogue, a reference list of the 41 printed books and manuscripts containing pieces by de Visée and a translation of all the French terms used.
N.B. It would appear that some sources are missing: an anonymous "Almand real - in fact "La Royalle", by Robert de Visée - has been recorded by the Camerata of London on LP Saga 5467. The title of the album is "Music for Kings & Courtiers" and features Barry Mason on lute and guitar. I could not get an answer to my queries about the source of this piece and I would be very grateful to anybody who could help me in locating it - and maybe others too : I have recently been informed of a private collection manuscript containing Visée pieces. More about in a few weeks

I have appended an annex to the fifty or so pages of the catalogue which provides the following statistics : the : number of incipits / number of versions* (for each type of piece and instrument), the number of pieces (for each type and the total figure) to be found in each of the anthologies examined (17 anthologies for guitar, 5 for treble and bass, 6 for theorbo, 6 for lute, 8 for keyboard instruments, 1 for viola da gamba and 1 for voice and figured bass) and the number of versions* found of each piece in the Thematic Catalogue (for each instrument and the total number)
The statistics are presented in the form of a quick reference chart or columns.

Issued : 15 November 2001, by Editions Symetrie
30 rue Jean-Baptiste Say, 69001 LYON
Tél : +33 (0)4 78 29 52 14, GSM : +33(0)6 14 82 05 32, Fax : +33 (0)4 78 30 01 11
http://www.symetrie.com . . . . contact@symetrie.com

Page top

Here are some of the figures :

25 original Preludes, 64 if the various versions are taken into account
Allemandes : 27 / 120
Courantes : 22 / 101
Sarabandes : 33 / 110
Gigues : 27 /109
Gavottes : 18 / 101
Menuets : 12 / 45
Bourées : 5 / 18
Passacailles : 6 /10
Chaconnes : 7 /19
Other forms : 7 /31

De Visée "Top 4"

This chart features four pieces which were probably smash hits at the time :

Page top

Opinions about the "Thematic Index with a Table of Concordance" :

- "Congratulations : this work will open many people's eyes..." (Hopkinson Smith)

- "I have just begun using it and am finding it extremely helpful. You have devised an ideal layout for such an index. Bravo!" (James Tyler, musician, musicologist, author of "The Early Guitar")

- "...beautifully printed and laid out...an impressive piece of work .... will undoubtly serve as an indispensable guide to De Visée's music for a long time to come." (Monica Hall, in The Lute, Vol. XLI)

- "..."This is the "Koechel" for De Visée, unparalleled research for an ambitious task which is worthy of applause." ." (Belgian Lute Society Bulletin)

- " This piece of research is particularly well presented, and will be just as useful for musicologists as for players. " (La Lettre du Musicien, n° 262) "A very pertinent thematic index..." (idem, n° 268)

- "The indexing system is clear to understand and all the text is in French, English, Italian and Spanish.
This is, of course, a great reference book. It makes it very easy to check how many alternative versions a particular piece has, and for what instruments these variants were written."
(David van Ooijen, in Nostalgia)

- "Intelligent and useful work" (Wanda Kozyra, in Les Cahiers de la Guitare, n° 84)

- "This is an extraordinarily accurate piece of work, the fruit of tremendous patience and enormous commitment, presented in a modern, clear and easy to use format.
We therefore look forward to many other popular musicological works such as this."
(Giorgio Ferraris, in Il Fronimo, n°122)

- "A precious tool ... the result of wide research" (Joël Dugot, in Tablature, Déc. 2002)

- “…an essential and completely new piece of work /…/ the result of breathtaking and precious research, welcomed by the greatest players”(LexNews, on-line cultural informations magazine)

- "...Useful to researchers and musicians as well .... very easy to use thanks to its very well thought-out system". (Kenneth Sparr, in Gitarr och Luta, N° 3, 2002)

- "a colossal piece of work ... consulting this volume, one is aware of the logical mind used to create this tool which is both precious and fascinating. ... Hats off to G. Rebours." (Fabrice Holvoet, in Guitares, Belgium)

- ..."A tremendous amount of research, very well presented, seemingly without parallel for those interested in baroque music." (Guitare Classique, n°16, 01/2003)

Thanks a lot to Laura Brownrigg for translating the non English quotations.

Errata & addendum :
(for the first printing only)

1 – P. 24, Prelude R 0.25 is in fact a modified version of the Prelude R 0.18 : this entry must be cancelled and be transferred to the corresponding column (Res.1106 : f.94r, pas de signe de mesure, and Vm7 6265 : p.18, pas de signe de mesure) p.23, at the R 0.18 entry. In the incipit of this prelude, the barred C time signature must be added too.

2 - P. 36, Courante R 2.20, incipit : the "^"above the B flat should be a "x", symbol for the "tremblement"

3 - The "Pieces de theorbe et de luth" date is 1716, as indicated p. 14. But it became 1713 p. 70.

4 - P. 33, R 2.08, add "D M." in the PTL1 column, just under "p. 92"

5 - P. 56, R 6.01, add Am in the shaded part.

6 - P. 46, R 4.04, Divers Guitare : Gallot viii r, instead of "vii r" (thanks to Monica Hall for this correction)

7 - Mr James Tyler kindly communicated to me the presence of De Visée guitar pieces in a portuguese manuscript owned by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foudation, Lisbon (Réference : P: Lcg, viola [guitar] manuscript, no shelf number), and I am grateful to the musician and musicologist Rogiero Budasz for allowing me to examine his copy of the manuscript.

I found in it these five concordances, that should now be added to my catalogue, page 41, 53, 57 et 59 :

- R 3.18 : P : Lcg, f.28 v, «Sarabanda 3° Tom», E M (anon, no time signature or bar lines)
- R 5.09 : P : Lcg, f.28 v, «Gavote 2° Tom», (anon, no time signature or bar lines)
- R 6.07 : P : Lcg, f.26 r, «Outra do mesmo tom chamado Minuete», (anon, no time signature or bar lines)
- R 7.04 : P : Lcg, f.28 r, «Burê» (anon, no time signature or bar lines, with a variation)
- R 7.05 : P : Lcg, f.27 r, «Estrangeira 8 Tom», (anon, uncomplete, no time signature or bar lines)

It also changes the figures on p. 68 to 73, and I think it'll be faster to do it yourself.

8 - P. 64, R 10.03, last "Divers Guitare" column : the Res.1820 reference is a theorbo piece, not a guitar piece ! The column should be a "Divers" one. (thanks to Fabrice Holvoet for this correction)

I have also supressed the paragraph 8 in the Foreword p.5 (" The fact that the Allemande R 1.05......of the same name") : having more thoroughly studied De Visée's music since, I now have no doubt that he is the only composer bearing this name.

9 - P. 63, R 9.07, add «J:Tm, f.26v (anon., incomplete)» in the «Divers» column.

Page top

The Éditions Transatlantiques have published in February 2000 a 235 page work by H. Charnassé, R. Andia & G. Rebours which include the tablature of the 2 volumes for guitar by Robert de Visée with a new transcription (in treble and bass clefs) and a 95 page commentary on the composer including a stylistic and technical approach to performing his tablatures. (in french)

Front cover and detailed description

Where to buy these 2 books ?
In every good music shop; for example, in France :

L'Atelier , 55 rue de Rome, 75008 Paris, tel. +33 (0)1 43 87 28 52
La Guitarreria , 5 rue d'Edimbourg, 75008 Paris, tel. +33 (0)1 45 22 54 72
La Maison de la Musique Ancienne, 98 Bd Richard Lenoir, 75011 Paris, tel. +33 (0)1 49 29 54 44

(The De Visée "Thematic index and Catalogue of Concordance" can also been mail ordered at : Editions Symetrie)

FAQ about Robert De Visée :

1 - Q : Are "1650 - 1725" the correct dates of Robert de Visée ?

A : Probably not. As he is mentionned in 1680, by Mr Le Gallois, as a "Maitre de guitare et de théorbe", and as he published his first book in 1682, it is assumed he was already a 30 years old man. But he may as well have been 20 : E. Jacquet de la Guerre published her first harpsichord pieces in 1687, at 23, for example.
As to his death, his name still appeared in payment accounts in 1732. Posthumous salary ?...
He probably had a long life, anyway, because Corette says (in
Les Dons d'Apollon, 1762, p. D) that he lived almost one hundred years. See his Biography (in French)

2 - Q : Was Corbetta his guitar teacher ?

A : Who knows ? Musicologist F.J. Fétis asserted that in his Biographie Universelle des Musiciens (1865, 2nd edtion, p.365 - 366), and the New Grove Dictionnary suggests it too. Some take as a reliable proof the fact that he composed a "tombeau" for Corbetta, but this is a somewhat thin argument, as he composed tombeau for other musicians (Mouton, DuBut, Tonty, Vieux Gallot), and also for his daughters - with whom he probably did not study.
Marais wrote a tombeau for Lully, who was not his viola teacher...
When Vaudry the Saizenay writes "Mr de Visée mon Maitre", we can say he was his pupil. When Remy Médard writes that he "follows the famous style that Francisque Corbet have communicated to him during a few months", we can say he was a Corbetta pupil.
In the absence of this kind of evidence for Visée, we have just to admit that we just do not know.

3 - Q : Has his "Third guitar book" been found ?

A : As far as I know, it has not been located yet. It is only mentionned by Fétis (reference above), who describes it shortly, and indicates the 1689 date. As we find manuscript guitar pieces that are not included in the 1682 and 1686 books, it may be possible that such a third publication have existed. The fact that 30 years went by before he published another music book ( Pieces de theorbe et de luth...1716) is quite astonishing for the successful musician that he was, and this also makes me think that music from him may have been lost.

4 - Q : From which manuscript can I find the Folies d'Espagne by De Visée for theorbo ?

A : In my researches to draw up the R. De Visée "Thematic Index and Table of Concordance" I have not yet find any Folies by this author (who - by the way - declares in his 1682 guitar book that he has not written any.)
However, I have already heard a theorbo player announcing Folies by De Visée and playing the anonymous variations of the Paris National Library manuscript "Res. 1820" (p. 11-15) instead.

5 - Q : Where can I find the "Ouverture de la Grotte de Versailles", the "Entrée d'Apollon" and other Lully pieces transcribed for guitar by Robert de Visée ?

A : There is no evidence that these guitar tablatures where the work of De Visée. But, in the "Vaudry de Saizenay" manuscript (facsimilé at Minkoff editions), several theorbo versions of these pieces are ascribed to him.

6 - Q : Why some Visée pieces bear a title in some sources (e.g. : Bourée R 7.03 "La Villageoise", Allemande R 1.03 "La Conversation, etc) and not in some others ?

A : In the 1682 "Livre de Guittarre" foreword, Visée wrote : "the other (pieces) will not be distinguished by bearing peculiar names, as other composers have done" “les autres (pièces) ne seront point distinguées par des noms particuliers comme d’autres ont fait.”, and the only exception is the allemande “Tombeau de Mr franc.que ”. There is no piece with a title in the 1686 guitar book. It is only in the 1716 "Pièces de théorbe et de luth mises en partition, dessus et basse" that one find titles added to a few dances, and 4 other composition with the title only, no dance type being indicated : Pastorale (R 10.01), la Montfermeil, Rondeau (R 10.02), Muzette, Rondeau (R 10.03) and Mascarade, Rondeau (R 10.04), that will keep this title in every source. It is overall in manuscript that titles are added to the De Visée dance names : I have drawn up a table showing all these relations, to see it click here.

7 - Q : Which editions publish Robert de Visée's music in facsimile ?

A : The two guitar tablature books, of 1682 and 1686, have been published since 1973 by editions Minkoff Reprint (Geneva), and they also issued the big "Manuscrit Vaudry de Saizenay", that offers most of Robert de Visée's lute and theorbo tablatures .
The Pieces de Théorbe et de Luth mises en partitions, Dessus et Basse (Paris, Roussel, 1716), are available at editions Arte Tripharia (Madrid). it can sometimes be found in the larger format formerly published by editions Musica Musica, and Minkoff Reprint announced the forthcoming issue of the annotated Vaudry de Saizenay's own copy, edited by musicologist Claude Chauvel.

More questions ?
Email, paste - copy without the first letter :

Page top