ISSN: 1089-747X
Copyright © 1995–2012 by the Society for Seventeenth-Century Music

Volume 4, no. 1:

Nicolas Vallet, Le Secret des Muses. Eugène Ferré, lute solo; with Jérôme Blum, Brian Freehan, and Pascal Monteilhet, lutes. Auvidis/Astrée, 1997 [Auvidis E 8591.]

Reviewed by David J. Buch*

1 This new compact disc offers the first recorded collection of pieces from Nicolas Vallet’s publications for the solo lute and lute quartet, titled Secretum Musarum (Amsterdam, 1615, 1616). (note 1) This diverse repertory is typical of the early seventeenth-century style in the “old tuning,” with numerous concordant readings in contemporary manuscripts and prints in Europe and Great Britain. Short preludes articulate the three sections in this recording with the following dance types: passemeze, gaillarde, pavane, allemande, ballet, and courante. Two contrapuntal fantasies are also included, along with some intabulations of French, English, and Dutch vocal works.

2 Lute music in the Netherlands in the early seventeenth century fell under the sway of two main influences, the English and French repertory and style. Both are present in the selections recorded here. Most prevalent is the emerging elegant French dance that would captivate all of Europe in the next few decades. Vallet also invoked the somber and sometimes chromatic style of contemporary English lutenists like John Dowland. The French, English and Dutch vocal repertory is also explored in Vallet’s transcription. Far less in evidence is the Italian style.

3 Eugène Ferré performs the solos in a solid, workmanlike manner. His precise and restrained interpretations have a pervading metrical rhythm and sameness of tone color that occasionally becomes monotonous. The more effusive lute quartets (two ballets, a gaillarde, and three vocal intabulations) are more robustly executed than the solo music, with greater dynamic contrast. The notes by the French lute scholar Claude Chauvel are especially good for context and analysis of the repertory. English and Spanish translations are provided.

*David J. Buch ( is Professor of Music History at the University of Northern Iowa.  His publications include a book on the ballet de cour (New York: Pendragon, 1994), an editon of La Rhetorique des dieux (Madison, WI: A-R Editions, 1989), and numerous articles.
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1. Edited by André Souris (Paris: Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique, 1970). The quartets were edited by Anne Bailes (Munich: Tree Editions, 1984).
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