Saturday, 1 October 2016


“I don’t think anything can touch the expressive range of the guitar.” - Gary Clark, Jr.

Francesco Corbetta (ca. 1615 – 1681, in French also Francisque Corbette) was an Italian guitar virtuoso, teacher and composer. He spent his early career in Italy. He seems to have worked as a teacher in Bologna where the guitarist and composer Giovanni Battista Granata may have been one of his pupils. He was then attached to the Court of Carlo II, Duke of Mantua in various capacities. He was however frequently granted leave of absence and travelled abroad to Spain where he amazed the Court in Madrid with his virtuosity; he may possibly also have travelled to Germany. He also visited the Spanish Netherlands, dedicating his fourth book, Varii scherzi di sonate to the governor, the Archduke Leopold Wilhelm.

He was in Paris in the 1650s where he took part in a ballet by Jean-Baptiste Lully. He came to the attention of the English King Charles II in exile and at the Restoration accompanied him to London. During the last 20 years of his life he divided his time between London and Paris. He is regarded as one of the greatest virtuosos of the Baroque guitar. Five collections of music for the five-course guitar survive today. At least two others are lost. His first book includes mostly strummed dance music, while the later books exhibit a great mastery over the combination of strummed and plucked textures.

Corbetta’s two earliest books include compositions in the Italian tradition, but his three later publications are increasingly in the French style. These publications also included important information for continuo playing on the guitar. A substantial amount of music attributed to him also survives in manuscript. Corbetta was also influential as a teacher. It is often suggested that such successful guitarists as Robert de Visée, Giovanni Battista Granata, and Rémy Médard, were his students. Although there is no documentary evidence to support this notion they almost certainly knew him personally. He was definitely employed as guitar teacher to Princess Anne, later Queen Anne of Great Britain, but there is no evidence that he was employed as guitar teacher to King Louis XIV of France.

Here is his Suite for baroque guitar in C major:
I. Preludio per la B - 0:05
II. Corrente nouvo inventione per la B - 1:15
III. Caprice di ciacona per la B - 2:58
IV. Sarabanda per la B - 7:46

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