‘Caprice de chaconne’ (1671): Symmetry and proportions in Francesco Corbetta’s work for Baroque guitar


For performers of Early Music, there is an everlasting quest to unveil new perspectives on a historically distant repertoire in search of new ways of performing and understanding the music. This is true for all performers of Early Music, including Baroque guitarists. A currently very popular performance piece is Francesco Corbetta’s ‘Caprice de chaconne’ (1671, ff. 72–73), which is to be found in his 1671 Baroque guitar tablature-collection, La guitarre royalle. Displaying advanced technical performance skills, embroidered connections between temporal coordinates that border between fantasy and order, it serves as an excellent display, not only of the performer’s technical skills, but also of Corbetta’s virtuosity both as a performer and composer, and, as we will see, political participation. In this article I will suggest new perspectives that may provide an extended understanding of how Corbetta’s political wit and musical talent manifest themselves in his ‘Caprice de chaconne.’ By unveiling symmetrical and proportional aspects to this music, I will present a structure that might have an influence on the performance of the piece, situating it within the socio-political context of Louis XIV’s court and the cult of his Sun King persona.



Burke, P. (1992). The fabrication of Louis XIV. Great Britain: Yale University Press.

Campion, F. (1705). Nouvelles découvertes sur la guitarre… Paris: Brunet.

Carré, A. (Sieur De la Grange). (1671). Liure de guitarre… Paris: n.a..

Corbetta, F. (1648). Varii scherzi…. Bruxells: n.a..

Corbetta, F. (1671). La guitarre royalle. Paris: Bonneüil.

Corbetta, F. (1674). La guitarre royalle. Paris: Bonneüil.

De Visée, R. (1682). Liure de guittarre… Paris: Bonneüil.

De Visée, R. (1686). Liure de pieces pour la gvittarre… Paris: Bonneüil.

Eriksen, R. (2001). The building in the text: Alberti to Shakespeare and Milton. USA: The Pennsylvania State University Press.

Foucault, M. (1994). The Order of Things: An Archaeology of Human Sciences. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Gracyk, T. (2001). I wanna be me: Rock music and the politics of identity. USA: Tewple University Press.

Hall, M. (2007). ‘Dissonance in the Guitar Music of Francesco Corbetta.’ The lute, Vol. 47, pp. 55–80.

Hall, M. (2013). ‘Francesco Corbetta, a biography.’ The lute, Vol. 53, pp. 18–48.

LeCocq, F. (1729). Recueil des pieces de guitarre… Bruxelles: Castillion.

Leppert, R. and McClary, S. (Eds.) (1987). Music and society: The politics of composition, performance and reception. UK: Oxford University Press.

Leppert, R. (1993). The sight of sound: Music, representation, and the history of the body. USA: University of California Press.

McClary, S. (2012). Desire and pleasure in seventeenth-century music. USA: University of California Press.

Nozedar, A. (2010). The illustrated signs & symbols sourcebook: An A to Z compendium of over 1000 designs. Hong Kong: Harper Collins Publishers.

Pinnell, R. (2016). ‘Corbetta, Francesco.’ Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, accessed 23 September, 2016, URL: http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/06449.

Potolsky, M. (2006) Mimesis (The New Critical Idiom). New York and London: Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.

Schwandt, E. (2016). ‘Capriccio (i).’ Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, accessed 23 September, 2016, URL: http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/04867.

Scott, D. (2003). From the erotic to the demonic: On critical musicology. USA: Oxford University Press.

Silbiger, A. (2016). ‘Chaconne.’ Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, accessed 23 September, 2016, URL: http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/05354.

Sutton, R. and Douglas, K. (2013). Social psychology. China: Palgrave Macmillan.

Torres, G. (2998). Seventeenth-century pièces de luth: An examination of the manuscript anthology tradition with a special emphasis on the Barbe Manuscript (PhD), USA: Cornell University.

Zecher, C. (2007). Sounding Objects: Musical Instruments, Poetry, and Art in Renaissance France. USA: University of Toronto Press.

Copyright (c) 2018 Robin Rolfhamre

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:

Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.

Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.

Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).

Bergen Open Access Publishing