Brussels : Bibliothèque du Conservatoir Royal de Musique Ms.S.5615 (Recueil des pieces de guitare composées par Mr François Le Cocq)


François Le Cocq (fl. 1685-1729) was a Flemish composer, guitarist and musician of the Chapel Royal of the court in Brussels, described as retired in 1729. He also taught the guitar to the wife of the Elector of Bavaria.

Le Cocq's music for 5-course guitar survives in two manuscripts, Brussels : Bibliothèque du Conservatoir Royal de Musique, Ms. S.5615 (1730) and Brussels : Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique. Albert 1er Département de la Musique, Ms.II.5551D (n.d.). Ms.II.5551D is an abridged version of Ms.S.5615. Both manuscripts were copied by Jean Baptiste Ludovico de Castillion, a personal friend of Le Cocq. (Note1)

Ms.S.5615 is in two sections. The first is titled "Recueil des pieces de guitarre composées par Mr. François Le Cocq" and the second "Recueil des pieces de guitarre de meilleurs maitres du siecle dixseptieme". In his preface Castillion explains that Le Cocq gave him autograph copies of his work, which he has recopied for his own use; to these he has added pieces from the previous century. The autograph copies which Le Cocq gave to Castillion have not so far come to light.

Castillion was born in Brussels on 21.9.1680 He studied theology and law at university of Louvain, achieving the grade of Licencie dans les deux droits. He was ordained at Antwerp in 1705 and in 1706 he became Pronotaire apostolique, and Secretaire to Philippe Erard Vander Noot, bishop of Ghent, who nominated him Prevot of St. Pharailde (Note2) in 1714,and Vicaire Generale in 1722. On 20.3.1743 he was appointed to the vacant see of Bruges. He was consecrated at Malines on 14.7.1743, and took possession of the see on 21.9. 1743. He died on 26.6.1753 and was buried in choir of the old Cathedral (demolished by the French in 1799). His funerary monument by sculptor Pulinx de Bruges erected in 1758, shows him with St. John the Baptist and an angel. This is now in the present day cathedral church of St. Salvator. An engraved portrait of Castillion dated 1739 is included in both manuscripts. (Note3)

Ms.S.5615 has a lengthy introduction by Castillion, describing the tuning, stringing and fretting of the guitar, and explaining note values, time signatures and ornaments. Most of this information is taken from other contemporary sources named in the text. He recommends the use of bourdons on both fourth and fifth courses and mentions the use of overwound strings for this purpose. The music, notated in French tablature, is in two sections; the first comprises 117 pieces attributed to Le Cocq grouped by key, the second music by the earlier composers, Corbetta, Colista, Perez de Zavala, Granata, Sanz, de Visée and Derosier also grouped by key. At the end there is a glossary of musical forms and terms. Several of Le Cocq's pieces are incorporated into the suites in Santiago de Murcia's "Passacalles y obras", GB.Lbl Add.Ms. 31640.


(1) It should be stressed that both are manuscripts, not published works, and that they were not copied by Le Cocq himself. Castillion also seems to have been the copiest of another manuscript, Liège Conservatoire Royal de Musique, Ms. 245. This includes music by De Visée, Corbetta, Colista, Granata, Sanz and Perez de Zavala, but not Le Cocq or Derosier. Return to text

(2) In Flemish she is known as St. Veerle. Apparently the church or college no longer exists, but there is still a square by the fort named for her - St. Veerleplein. Return to text

(3) Biographical information from "Biographie Nationale des Belgiques" ( Brussels, 1872). Vol. 3, p.371 and Piet Lamiroy - "Jan-Baptist de Castillion" in "Het bisdom Brugge"; edited by Michel Cloet (Bruges, 1984) p. 190-3. Return to text

This translation of the written sections of Ms.S.5615 (1730) is in four parts. Part 1 is Castillion's preface explaining how he came to copy music. Part 2 is his "Principles of the guitar". Part 3 is the "Explanation of the marks and signs of the tablature of the guitar". Part 4 is the "Alphabetical index of the names of the airs and of the terms of music". The translation is text only, to be used in conjunction with the facsimile edition published in Brussels by Editions Culture et Civilization, (1979). Ms.II.5551D has not been published in facsimile; it includes a short preface by Castillion, which is also translated.

I am grateful to my sister, Mary Woodward, for her help with the translation. Any mistakes are all my own!

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