m.a. recordings 2001
Dedicated to the courtly Baroque music of Robert de Visée, Le Maître du Roy features solo works for 11-string lute, guitar and theorbo in the extremely capable hands of Eduardo Egüez. The title The King's Teacher here is no mere capricious cleverness but factual -- Frenchman Visée was the guitar teacher of Louis XIV -- and the present recording follows hot on the heels of Eduardo's two prior J.S. Bach albums on Todd Garfinkle's label, recorded in the same Cathedral of the Convento Dell'Annunziata/Rovato of Italy's Brescia region as the prior Bach direct-to-DVD/RAM super-audiophile masters.
What can I tell you - M.A. lists this album on their bestseller list which also includes the stunning La Segunda, Séra una Noche, The Splendor of Al-Andalus and Krushevo, albums I all own, cherish and second in a second as bona fide masterpieces. It takes no genius to recognize greatness, something that, naturally, cannot be said for creating greatness. That does require its fair share of genius and sweat equity. Needless to say, Louis the 14th was no dunce when it came to recognizing and then surrounding himself with the best creative talent France of his days had to offer. Robert de Visée, on guitar at least, was every bit J.S. Bach's compositional equal and, due to his mastery of said instrument, scripted a far more extensive repertoire than his Teutonic equivalent.
The byline "Volume One" accompanying this release hints at further treasures down the road, likely because a single album couldn't hope to do justice to the width and breadth of this composer. Which seems eminently justified when you ascend again into the bustling world of daylight after having drifted off into a gone-by era, of minstrels, troubadours and bards, knights and noble ideals that, under the flea-infected powdered wigs of their sunset days at the large European courts, found their most virtuoso expression.
Amidst political cabal, intrigues and festering sewers, the gentle beats of Allemandes, Gavottes, Gigues, Menuettes, Pascailles and Sarabandes celebrated the posh dances of the aristocracy, and it is these images -- as well as those of well-bred dames exercising their fingers on spinets and lutes to admiring audiences planning their next amorous exploits to get underneath the many layers of cloth and brocade accentuating the women's hips -- that arise spontaneously while listening to Eduardo's masterful renditions.
Curtsies. Pirouettes. Men in stockings and high-heeled clasped shoes. You're there, feasting on stuffed quails, truffles and drinking from expensive crystal ware. Decadence without the usual penalties of upset stomachs, syphilis or cuckooled husbands demanding a duel with unreliable pistols. At least for European-born listeners, Baroque music like this conjures up a wealth of unpremeditated impressions, of perfect geometries, aspiration, refinement, a kind of musical code for the higher heavens long before music was supposed to express sensuality and human passions as during the romantic period.
Like Greek statues, Baroque aimed for universality, for perfect balance and harmony. All of this and more is self-evident in The King's Teacher, most profound especially when you consider how readily modern man can still relate to this particular period's music. It truly did capture something of eternal validity that still inspires recognition and sympathy. Even if you don't consider yourself deeply into the Classics; even if you tend to stay far away from them; this music should appeal to you regardless just as you would appreciate a German cathedral or French castle without knowing anything about architecture. Masterworks communicate beyond cultural gaps - and Le Maître du Roy is a masterpiece pure and simple. I'm sure Louis XIV would have concurred. And he was quite surrounded by masterpieces...