This very impressive CD presents performances by a gifted young artist (still the right side of 30!) at the start of what deserves to be a long and successful career. Simone Vallerotonda here performs music by two men whose careers overlapped at the French court: Francesco Corbetta (1615–1681), who inspired the aristocracy of half of Europe to take up the guitar; and Robert de Visée (1650–1725), a later master of the guitar and the theorbo.
The programme alternates sets of pieces by the two composers, and the programme is well chosen to give a pleasing variety of moods, with a slight penchant for forms with repeating structures: follia, chaconne, passacaglia and rondeau; many audiences particularly enjoy these. Vallerotonda’s musicianship is equally impressive for virtuosity, for instance in Corbetta’s ‘Caprice de Chaconne’ and poetic expressiveness, for instance in ‘Les Sylvains de M. Couperin’.
The sound of both the guitar and the theorbo are excellent; he rightly plays de Visée on a big theorbo, which it requires in order to sound suitably grand. The theorbo basses, in a resonant acoustic, ring on for a very long time; perhaps compromising musical articulation here and there, but even this is put to good use in a ‘bagpipe’ piece, a transcription of Marais’ ‘Muzette’.
Very highly recommended – let’s hope for many more like this.
September–November 2014 www.earlymusictoday.com