Rolf Lislevand Baroque guitar, theorbo
Recorded April 2012, Auditorio Stelio Molo, Lugano
Engineer: Stefano Amerio
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Release date: May 20, 2016
Featuring music by Robert de Visée (ca. 1655-1732/33) and Francesco Corbetta (ca. 1615-1681), guitarist-composers in the employ of Louis XIV, this under-the-radar gem from ECM’s New Series finds Rolf Lislevand charting the divergent territories of the theorbo and Baroque guitar in a cross-hatched program.
De Visée’s sense of tactility is evident not only in Lislevand’s interpretations, but also in the writing itself. In Les Sylvains de Mr. Couperin and, especially, the piece from which the album derives its name, the theorbo’s emotional reach is fully examined. Their sounds are intimately connected to speech. “The dominant linguistic elements of French,” the performer writes, “are all there: the length of the musical syllables, the accents, created artificially by the ornaments, and above all the short, gestural, interleaved phrases constructed in a very clear rhetorical logic.” In this tongue he speaks semi-conversationally—never debating in the interest of affirmation but rather walking hand-in-hand around a question that chooses not to define its existence by an answer. The Chaconne en sol majeur is a masterstroke in this precise regard, laying down sonic sentences across a bridge of charm.
Corbetta, who served as de Visée’s teacher, flits above his own reflection in relatively whimsical yet philosophically inflected journeys. In the brilliant Partie de Chaconne en ut majeur, one can hear shades of the Iberian Peninsula, flamenco-like drama, and heart palpitations in a single strum. The focus on chording over individual voicings lends a dream-like quality. Indeed, whereas de Visée seems concerned with waking fantasies, here the colors are drawn from a whimsical font such as only closed eyes could contain. In this sense, the Caprice de Chaconne manifests the album’s most corporeal interests. Rooted as much in past as in future, it smiles as if to confirm the present moment as a magic of its own making. Not unlike the briefer Folie, it shines most when pausing for effect.
Here and there, Lislevand adds his own tasteful pieces, such as the “Intros” to Corbetta’sPassacaille en sol mineur and de Visée’s Passacaille en si mineur. They exist to strengthen an underlying sense of architecture, as indicative of a meticulous attention to time and its relationship to space. In service of that assessment, engineer Stefano Amerio went to great pains to recreate the halls of Versailles, where every inner detail of these instruments would likewise have blossomed like the hearts of those hearing them. Let those reverberations till the soil of yours in kind.