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(1660 - 1725)

Robert de Visée (c. 1650 - c. 1732), a court musician at first in the service of Louis XIV, was appointed in 1709 as singer in the royal chamber, and in 1719 he became the official guitar tutor to Louis XV (Maître de guitare du Roy), then nine years old. After one year he resigned in favour of his son. He is listed as being employed by the royal family from 1680 until 1732.

Our earliest knowledge of him is that he was called to entertain the Dauphin in 1682, as the Préface to his first published book (1682) confirms. He enjoyed a considerable reputation as a player of the guitar, the lute, the theorbo and the viola da gamba. The theorbo bad been 'imported' by Italian musicians and was used in Lully's ballets; together with the guitar it gained in popularity as an accompanying instrument and in reinforcing the bass line of the continuo in chamber music, which the lute, then already in decline, could not do. De Visée thus played an important part in establishing both the guitar and the theorbo.

His publications comprise a number of suites, each a fairly informal collection of dances grouped around the same key, to be played by the performer in an appropriate sequence. The revival of interest began with Emilio Pujol’s transcription of Robert de Visée’s Suite in D minor (Eschig 1928), continuing with a popular arrangement by Karl Scheit (Universal Edition, 1944). Performance of de Visée’s music on the modern classical guitar involves a number of modifications sounding very different from ‘authentic’ interpretations on the Baroque five-course guitar.

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VISEE, R. de: Suites (Imamura) Capriccio

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