Le Roy: Fantasie Première

Le Roy: Fantasie Première Note on 25/9/19: Now revised yet again, and posted HERE.

This was one of my first posts, but here is an improved (I hope) version. You can download it free in the following formats:

  • pdf
  • TablEdit
  • MIDI

Being a fantasia, this piece (unlike an air or a dance) is not divided neatly into 4- or 8-bar segments. For ease of reference I have divided the 91 bars (note the prime number) into sections A to K, according to where I see a new idea emerging. You may hear the sections differently.

The first page of the original tablature: of “Fantasie Première” in Premier livre de tablature de guiterre, ff  2 – 3.

From a facsimile at  Early Music Online

The piece consists mostly of two lines or voices (counterpoint), based mainly on overlapping scale fragments; these lines tend to start and stop at different places. There is also the occasional base note to add rhythm.

The key seems to vary at whim from G major to G minor (note the B-flats and F-naturals).

As with all music in French tabs, there can be problems in assessing whether an unoccupied space before or after a note represents a continuation of the note (sometimes ligatured across bars) or a rest. I have made a comment about this:

     (a) between bars 33 and 41 (§ E), where I have inserted a rest in the bass at the beginning of each bar; and
     (b) between bars 76 and 81 (§ J), where I have I have opted for the ligature in the top voice.

Either option could be chosen, but the rest is obviously easier to play, and on an instrument such as a ukulele which has no great sustain, there is little difference in sound. There are other occasions in the score where this confusion occurs.

It is interesting to note that bars 7 to 9 are very close to what I have described elsewhere as John Dowland’s “Solus cum sola motif”, which appears in a number of his works about half a century later. The only difference is that in Dowland’s version the third note on the top string (a D) would not be sounded, and the previous note would be held.

I am sure that a professional musician could interpret this piece at sight, but I find it helps to sit down with the score and mark out where the voices lie. The difficulty in performance is to maintain the lines when two lines are moving from fret to fret and string to string. The image below shows my own markings on an early draft of the tabs: you may have a different opinion. Incidentally, in some sections I can detect a hint of the campanella style.

My notes on an early draft of the first page of the tablature.
The upper voice is in red, the others in blue and green. There is much scope for different interpretations throughout the piece: for example, I missed the lower voice starting on the 4th string in bar 4.

Tags: #fantasie #premiere

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