Basic Features of Lute and Keyboard Styles

  • David Ledbetter


The characteristic texture of 17th-century French lute music is commonly called the style brisé (broken style). On a purely technical level this denotes the process of playing the notes of music in two or more parts successively rather than simultaneously. But in the context of the repertoire as a whole it has much broader and deeper implications. It is in fact a principle which governs the very nature of the music. The style is based on subtle, attenuated allusion to common harmonic and contrapuntal formulae, on fluidly built-up melodic lines, and on intentionally vague harmonic direction; it is an aspect of an aesthetic which favoured asymmetry and unpredictability above all else. But this was not a self-generating, independent development of the Baroque: the style brisé has its roots in the technique of Renaissance lutenists, in a style which had a common currency throughout Europe in the 16th century.


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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    A list of very similar figures in the works of contemporary English lutenists is given in W. W. Newcomb, Studien zur englischen Lautenpraxis, pp. 92–101.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Hainhofer. Identified works by French lutenists in sources datable to the first decade of the 17th century have been collected in VAUMESNIL.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Edited in R. BALLARD I and R. BALLARD 2Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    For this and other common terms of lute technique, see the Note to the Reader.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    In each of the three ballet groups of R. Ballard 1611 which contain this type of movement it forms the third and last piece of the group (the other two pieces being in C time); this perhaps gives an early date for the sarabande as the final element of a dance group.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Herbert, ff. 84v–85: ‘Sarabande Jacob’ (Reys). According to Devoto the earliest reference to the sarabande in France is in the collection of ballet titles compiled by Michel Henry, from a ballet of 1607–8 (D. Devoto, ‘De la zarabanda à la sarabande’, pp. 30–31). Only the Reys sarabande in Herbert and a ‘sarabande espagnolle’ and ‘courante sarabande’ in N. Vallet’s Amsterdam publication of 1615 (Vallet 1615) date from before 1620. In non-French lute sources, a number of pieces entitled ‘Sarabanda francese’ are in the Italian manuscript De Bellis of C1615 (see G. Reese, ‘An Early Seventeenth-Century Italian Lute Manuscript at San Francisco’).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Herbert, f. 42v (a): ‘Prelude mr Daniel’ (Bacheler); f. 44: ‘Prelude Desponde’ (i.e. Despont)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    For example, the writer of the Burwell Lute Tutor says that ‘we must give him [Mesangeau] the praise to have given to the Lute his first perfection’ (Burwell, f. 5).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Prague 18. This bears the dates 1623 (f. 1) and 1627 (f. 179v). The Mesangeau pieces appear between ff. 16 and 71, and are edited in MESANGEAU, nos. 2–6. A further early courante (from Besard 1617; MESANGEAU, no. 1) is altogether untypical of Mesangeau’s style as represented by his other known pieces. Besard appears to have altered works freely, since in general the versions he gives have more in common with other pieces in his publications than with other known works of the composers named.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    P. Ballard 1631 and P. Ballard 1638Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    CNRS and Panmure 5. CNRS bears the dates 1631 and 1632 and was compiled by or for Bullen Reymes (1613–1672), an Englishman who took lessons from both Mesangeau and Merville (I am indebted to Robert Spencer for this information). Panmure 5 is closely related to this source in that the principal hand in both manuscripts is the same or very similar (Rollin, in MESANGEAU, presents the opening allemande, common to both sources, in facsimile for comparison).Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    P. Gaultier, edited in P. GAUTIERGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    That this tuning was taken to represent D minor is clear from the contemporary transcriptions in Perrine 1 and Perrine 2.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    For a full discussion of unmeasured preludes in lute sources before 1630 see D. Ledbetter, Harpsichord and Lute Music in Seventeenth-Century Prance, i, pp. 79–80.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    References are to DUFAUT, pp. 2–3, CHANCY, pp. 2–3 and p. 9 (Chancy), and CHANCY, p. 29 (Bouvier).Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    See for example the openings of the Dufaut and Bouvier preludes.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    CNRS has nine unmeasured and five semi-measured preludes, Panmure 5 one unmeasured and four semi-measured. In semi-measured preludes the rhythm signs are presumably tempo indications rather than exact divisions of a beat. In a spread chord, such as that at the opening of Panmure 5, ff. 31v–32, the minim sign probably applies to the duration of the total chord when played, rather than to the duration of each individual note.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Monin is included here as the source for the Dufaut prelude ex.6. It is principally a source of lute works by the elder Dubut and of works for angélique by Béthune (see W. J. Rave, Some Manuscripts, pp. 203–12).Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Schwerin 641 is the principal source for the works of Pinel; it appears to be closely associated with this lutenist, and was possibly compiled under his supervision (see M. Rollin in PINEL, p. XXIII).Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    For examples see below, ex. 14, bars 3 and 5.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    According to Mersenne the sarabande could have any number of sections {Harmonie universelle, Livre second des chants, p. 165).Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Several contain the strummed chords of the quicker dances, for example the opening of the second couplet of Reynaud, f. 114v (a), and several bars in the first strain of Robarts, f. G4.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    L. F. Tagliavini, ‘The Art of “Not Leaving the Instrument Empty”’, pp. 305–6Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    The fact that I have chosen to treat the Lynar manuscript as representing the earliest layer of this repertoire needs some explanation since the dating of the French element in it is uncertain. The problems surrounding its date and its status as a source of French keyboard music have been most recently discussed by Gustafson (French Harpsichord Music, 1, pp. 30–32), who dates its compilation between 1615 and 1650. However, as he points out, the composers represented belong mostly to the generation born around 1560, although some were born around 1590. The 1650 date is postulated on account of a suite in a later style, entered probably by a different hand, at the end of the manuscript. The eight courantes which constitute the relevant section of the source are attributed to composers of the generation represented in the lute source Herbert—Gaultier and Robert Ballard—with which Lynar has concordances. In the case of the other composer in Lynar, La Barre, it is not known which member of that numerous family is in question, or whether he was a lutenist or a keyboard player. The eight courantes are nos. 62–69 in the source, and are edited in BONFILS LVIII–LIX.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Lynar, no. 68; R. BALLARD I, pp. 40–41, cf. p. 96 and p. 97Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Either Marin, who is mentioned as ‘joueur du luth’ and ‘maître joueur de luth’ from 1610 and had died by 1638, or his son Jean, who is similarly mentioned between 1615 and 1640 (M. Jurgens, Documents, 1).Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Dutch professional keyboard manuscript compiled after 1669 (B. Gustafson, French Harpsichord Music, i, pp. 80–81)Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Concordance lists for examples are given in D. Ledbetter, Harpsichord and Lute Music in Seventeenth Century France, ii.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Copenhagen 376 is the principal keyboard source for the first half of the century to indicate the interest taken by keyboard players in lute repertoire: lute concordances have been identified for 11 of the 69 pieces in it. Some are no more than parallel settings of popular dance airs, but some are, as in ex. 14, closely modelled on original lute pieces. The fullest descriptions of the source are by A. Dickinson (Keyboard Tablatures of the Mid-Seventeenth Century, pp. 30–107) and B. Gustafson (French Harpsichord Music, 1, pp. 10–18).Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    German amateur keyboard manuscript, dated 1678 (Gustafson, op cit, i, pp. 24–5)Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Göttweig 1, ff. 16v–17. See Gustafson, op cit, iii, p. 269 for keyboard concordances. Although ex. 10 does not fit under the general heading of this section, I have given it as a particularly clear example of the main features of lute and keyboard courante textures.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Hintze, f. 12vGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    See, for example, the opening of Ennemond Gaultier’s popular Courante ‘L ‘immortelle’, ex. 18.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Compare, for example, the allemande in Gaultier Pieces, pp. 80–81, with the keyboard version in Darmstadt 18, ff. 8v–9. See also the Ottobeuren version in ex. 15.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Stockholm 176: Swedish professional keyboard manuscript (after 1681; see B. Gustafson, French Harpsichord Music, 1, pp. 43–4)Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    See Gustafson, op cit, i, pp. 68–73.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Bauyn was compiled in three distinct sections: Bauyn I contains works by Chambonnières; Bauyn II works by Louis Couperin; and Bauyn III has been characterised by Gustafson as ‘a wide sampling of other music which was prized by a discriminating Parisian harpsichordist’ (French Harpsichord Music, i, p. 96). The arrangements from lute pieces are all contained in Bauyn III. Recent paper study has given a dating for Bauyn of 1676–C1700. Detailed information will be supplied in the introduction to a modern edition of the manuscript, edited by Bruce Gustafson and Peter R. Wolf (New York: Broude Brothers, forthcoming).Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Perrine 2, Advertissement, p. 4. Perrine 1 is a lute tutor, but has a version of Denis Gaultier’s Courante ‘Le canon’ in staff notation. More important is Perrine 2, which presents 30 pieces by Ennemond and Denis Gaultier in this notation.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Definitely arrangements are three sarabandes, one each by Mesangeau, an unspecified Gaultier, and Pinel (nos. 52, 64 and 90 in the source) and a canarie by Ennemond Gaultier (no. 65). Possibly arrangements are a fantasia attributed to Lorency (no. 43); a pavane by Vincent, for which no lute source has been identified (no. 93); and an anonymous pavane which has a concordance in the lute source Saizenay 2 (no. 37). Full discussions of these pieces are given in D. Ledbetter, Harpsichord and Lute Music, i, pp. 146–7 and pp. 180–82.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Concordance lists for D’Anglebert’s lute arrangements are given in Appendix A.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Harmonie universelle, Traité des instrumens a chordes, Preface au lecteur (n.p.).Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    See the section ‘The decline of the lute’ in chapter I.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Douglas Maple, who is currently engaged in a detailed study of Rés. 89ter, has identified two layers of entry into the manuscript, one later than the other. Lute transcriptions occur in both layers (communication from Douglas Maple).Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    B. Gustafson, French Harpsichord Music, i, p. 102Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    For information about Robarts see R. Spencer’s introduction to the facsimile edition (Kilkenny: Boethius Press, 1978). ‘La Vestemponade’ appears there as a gigue.Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    See Appendix A for concordances and modern editions. For the examples I have chosen lute versions which come closest to D’Anglebert’s. A wide range of lute versions are presented for comparison in vol ii of D. Ledbetter, Harpsichord and Lute Music, which also gives complete versions of all the D’Anglebert arrangements with lute concordances.Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    These titles are not in Rés. 89ter, but occur in the lute sources. They are unlikely to have been given to the pieces by Ennemond Gaultier, but probably identify popular pieces. They aptly sum up the characters of these courantes.Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    See the section ‘The new expressive harpsichord style’ in chapter I.Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    The situation regarding the lute sources of ‘La superbe’ is more complicated than most in that the piece circulated in two different tunings, B flat (trumpet tuning) as well as standard D minor tuning. The Vm7 6216 lute version, edited in V. GAUTIER, no. 40, is alone in the lute sources in having more than two strains and also, of those in standard tuning, of being in the key of B flat rather than F. D’Anglebert may well have used a B flat tuning version for his arrangement, since most of the ones in standard tuning are a 4th lower and virtually sans chanterelle, and thus give a very different impression from his bright and stately piece.Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    The Reynaud version of this piece adds one detail relating to the performance of style brisé pieces. In common with some lute sources it fully notates a constant rhythmic inequality applying to notes in all registers. There is no evidence in the lute sources that inequality applied to the melodic line only.Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    German amateur keyboard manuscript (1695; see B. Gustafson, French Harpsichord Music, i, pp. 46–8)Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    Amateur keyboard tablature of c168o (Gustafson, op cit, i, pp. 26–7)Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    The title appears only in the late German keyboard source Ottobeuren, whose titles seldom agree with those in the central lute sources. It is nonetheless particularly appropriate for this piece, which appears to have been written to feature campanella.Google Scholar
  54. 54.
    This interpretation of the port de voix is also mentioned in Nivers’ Livre d’orgue (1665) and Raison’s Livre d’orgue (1688).Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    That Ennemond Gaultier was capable of exploiting what in lute terms are extreme contrasts of register in the chaconne is evident from V. gautier, no. 50.Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    V. GAUTIER, no. 83, omits couplets 3 and 4 from D’Anglebert’s version.Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    In the prints of Denis Gaultier, Mouton and Gallot the commonest signs are as follows: Similar signs are given by Mersenne (Harmonie universelle, Livre second des instrumens, pp. 79–86). Manuscript lute sources tend to use the comma as the most frequent ornament sign, (see also Chapter I, fn. 191.)Google Scholar
  58. 58.
    The majority of subsequent clavecinistes based their ornament signs on those of Chambonnières. Apart from Rameau, only Dieupart, Le Roux and Balbastre followed those of D’Anglebert.Google Scholar

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© David Ledbetter 1987

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