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La Guitarre Royalle - Fanfare

05 September 2005

For his first solo recording, guitarist William Carter has chosen the works of the 17th century virtuoso Francesco Corbetta. Called the best of all guitarists by no less than Gaspar Sanz, Corbetta taught the guitar to Louis XIV, which indicates his status in the fashionable world. He went to England with the restoration of Charles II, another royal patron, and moved to Paris in his last years. (He died in 1681.) A decade before, he published La Guitarre Royale, from which most of the works played here are taken. In 1674, he published a second collection with the same title. The first volume is dedicated to Louis XIV and the second to Charles II. Corbetta's music seemed to fall out of favor soon after his death: Carter speculates that it is because it survives in tablature. Key manuscripts as well are owned by presumably uncooperative private collectors.

Carter's recording joins a dozen others with pieces by Corbetta. The guitarist, who plays exquisitely, has his own idea about the repertoire. He tells us that he has "assembled" the first Chaconne out of several available, and that he has added a "Spanish" introduction to the Folia d'espana, another of the pieces in C. He takes other pardonable liberties here while playing a Baroque guitar built on historical principles. If the melodies often sound like lute songs of the time, the technique and sound are different: the pieces are plucked and strummed and the sound is warmer and less prickly than a lute. The technique creates its own aura, as on the lovely Folie in G Minor. The pieces are the usual assemblage of dance movements, chaconnes, minuets, Allemandes, and so on. Corbetta was a talented composer, though not, to my ears, a striking genius. Carter's sound is gorgeous, focused, and beautifully recorded by Linn engineers. The playing is faultless. This disc will be welcome to many fans of guitar music: it revives some unnecessarily obscure music that most listeners will find pleasing, and it helps introduce a guitarist of the highest stature.

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