Early Guitars and Vihuela

A network for historic guitars and vihuelas

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P.S, In 1976 Richard Pinnell claimed that Corbetta used octave stringing on the 4th and 5th courses for his first three books and that the "French" tuning was new in 1671. Another unsubstantiated idea still repeated without question.

I liked your recording of De Visee much more than the Corbetta. Perhaps my eyes and ears deceived me but I thought you were not using a bourdon on the 5th course...

< Prima’, ‘seconda’, and ‘terza’ simply refer to the different versions, first. second and third version. . . Your suggestion . . . that some of the pieces are intended to be played by three guitars tuned a fifth apart is not very sensible. Not very practical and how would anyone know?

> This issue is really is more complex than it may seem. I hope to find the time to get back to it soon. Perhaps it would be better to start a separate thread then.


< I have listened to your recording with the score in front of me . . . my impression is that the bourdons overwhelm the treble strings to such an extent that it is difficult to pick out the melodic line. . . The bourdons are more resonant and ring on longer obscuring everything else. . . The quasi ‘campanella’ passages e.g. in the allemande at bar 14, 16, 35 and 37 sound uneven – the notes on the 4th and 5th courses are too loud and prominent. . . I liked your recording of De Visee much more than the Corbetta. Perhaps my eyes and ears deceived me but I thought you were not using a bourdon on the 5th course...

> Although your reaction is regrettable, it’s hardly surprising considering the difficulty you seem to have to generally accept a fifth-course bourdon, even if the possibility that the composer has used it himself cannot be ruled out with certainty.  


To summarize a few comments made earlier:

Almost everyone seems to use the French tuning for Italian solo music, even if there is no proof at all to support that this was done. Based on the available evidence, it would probably be better to choose between conventional or re-entrant tuning.  

  1. The standard tuning chart is found in quite a number of sources (for example in Corbetta 1639, Foscarini’s books, and Granata 1646) and it is therefore logical to assume that the conventional tuning has been used a lot.
  2. Even though it is still possible that an individual composer included this chart despite using a different tuning himself, we have to acknowledge that there is no firm evidence for that.
  3. This is to some extent similar to the uncertainties surrounding Corbetta's 1671 book: there still is the possibility (no matter how probable or unlikely one might consider it to be) that Corbetta has echoed Carré's advice because he realised that by putting it like this it offered a convenient way of making clear that the patently inappropriate re-entrant tuning should be avoided.


It is rather strange to uniformly choose for the French tuning now, based solely on the conviction that 'the music works best' that way. After all, this is entirely subjective and the reasons given are debatable to say the least. Besides, we actually know very little about the true reasons why the French tuning is often used nowadays. My guess is that this is because it has been propagated by Tyler (and a few other experts).


Version 06.01.21. Two new paragraphs added on page 12



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