Early Guitars and Vihuela

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Differences in sound qualities of lutes, as opposed to vihuelas and 5-course guitars?

I'm a fiction writer working on a novel one of whose characters will be the seventeenth century Francesco Corbetta, one of the early Italian masters of the 5-course guitar, and a teacher of Gaspar Sanz.

My experience of the old instruments is not very great; but listening to people playing  modern recreations of vihuelas and the 5-course guitar on You Tube, I don't hear much difference between the way they sound, and the sound of the lute. Which raises the question, in connection with my project, why someone talented as Corbetta would have chosen to devote himself to the 5-course rather than the lute, especially when the guitar at leastr outside Spain still seems to have been regarded as an instrument to be strummed in taverns and barber shops.

What I'm looking for are educated guesses, and guesses from people knowledgeable in these matters would be appreciated!

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From the standpoint of a music historian all I can say is that there is no evidence that he studied the lute, the vihuela or even the guitar in Madrid at any time in his life - and no possible reason why he should have done so. He clearly says in the introduction to La guitarre royale that he had never played the lute and also implies that he was self-taught. The guitar was so popular in Italy at the beginning of the 17th century that all he had to do was nip out and buy a "teach yourself the guitar" manual. From the available evidence it seems that he visited Spain sometime between 1643-1650 as a solo performer. And incidentally Pavia was within the Duchy of Milan which was - like Naples - a Spanish possession.

The problem with fiction is that people tend to confuse it with fact.
Incidentally - did you know that Claire Fontijn thinks that the memoirs of Adam Ebert, known as Aulus Apronius, may actually be Corbetta's memoirs which Ebert stole from his daughter? The description of Restoration London is quite convincing. There may be quite a lot of information about Corbetta that you might not be aware of. As far as his early career is concerned his relationship with Granata and their dispute over plagiarism is more interesting than any fictional visit to Spain.
The purposes of fiction--the serious kind--differ from those of fact. They are less superficial. Of course historiography--interesting historiography-- is a close cousin as an exercise of the imagination.

Are the memoirs of Adam Ebert readily available somewhere?
Alas - no. they only seem to be available in an 18th century edition - in German and in Gothic script. But have you come across the passage which is often quoted about his cancelling a concert in Turin because he had broken a nail?
Yeah, I did--funny how things never change in that respect! I swear sometimes I'm going to try those fake nails women put on, but I'm playing Spanish music with a whole lot of rasgueado. I doubt if they'd take the beating.
Maybe rather than introducing Corbetta, it would be safer to invent a character who is an amalgam of different persons and situations. That might be more able to express what interests you without getting snagged on persnickety reviewers (Monica, I'm definitely *not* accusing you of that! -- your input is coming at precisely the right time) who would sneer at inaccuracies. Or more to the point, you could save yourself from adding to the misinformation about any one historical character by completely inventing your own fictional character. You could even name him Corbata, which is neck-tie in Spanish. The similarity would be obvious, but wouldn't limit the situations you could explore.
This seems to me to be the better approach. Thinking of Rose Tremain's "Music and silence" - it is inspired by John Dowland and the fact that he spent some time in Denmark - but it is not in any way a portrait of JD himself. (I am afraid I tend to be a pernickety reviewer - although I try not to be).
I might end up following Chris's suggestion. I thought about that as I worked today. The biography really is only a distant background in most of what I'm doing, and my attention is so clearly elsewhere that my hypothetical reader (are all readers these days hypothetical?) will immediately be oriented elsewhere, too. Well, the beauty of the word processor is that you can change all uses of a name instantly if you decide to do that.

The first piece in my sequence of pieces is, in part, also a spin-off from the Dowland biography, including his experience in Denmark. I wasn't aware of the fictional treatment of Dowland you mention.
Well - it is a novel by the English writer Rose Tremain with the title "Music and silence" about a lutenist in by the name of Peter Claire at the court of of Christian IV. She has also written a novel called "Restoration" about - you guessed it the Restoration but Corbetta doesn't come into it. she is very popular over here but perhaps not in the STates.
May end up doing it. See my reply to Monica Hall today.
I did actually regret afterwards that I put verbal description of the sound ... I should never do this again! I did, however, succeed so far in not reading books that describe how instruments sound :) Anyway, my main point was to explain that the two instruments are different acoustically and constructionally - the fact that, quite possibly, made them to survive alongside for quite some time. Whether those differences for some people would result in noticeably different sound qualities I can't possibly speculate. I'm only taking from my own experience of being a lute and vihuela / guitar maker and, shall I say, amateur player for a few decades. And when you start to enjoy the music and different sound colours that each of those instruments offers you'd really want to play them all, not just stick with one. There is nothing unique in that, great many people went through similar experiences, both now and in the good old days. Talking of which ... one remarkable account often comes to my mind: a correspondence between the Marchesa Isabella d'Este and Lorenzo da Pavia; rich connoisseur and the great patron of music, with as much refined taste for various musical instruments (including vihuela da mano) as one could ever imagine and her favourite instrument maker - a plot for a novel in its own right!

So I'm not sure if I'd ever venture to speculate why Corbetta would have preferred the guitar over the lute ... I don't know how much is known about his life but, being a child of his time, he would have played not just the guitar but the lute and theorbo too, in as much the same way as his contemporaries, such as Robert de Visee and Angelo Michele Bartolotti for instance. So it may well be that his choice was totally pragmatic, in the sense that he did what he could sell best. Just an idea ...
Corbetta most certainly did not play the lute or the theorbo. In the introduction to La guitarre royale (1670) he says himself quite clearly that he has never played the lute and doesn't know a single note on it. He is slightly unusual in that respect.


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