Brussels : Bibliothèque du Conservatoir Royal de Musique Ms.S.5615


Collection of pieces for guitar composed by Mr. François Le Cocq, retired musician of the Chapel Royal in Brussels, and presented by the author in 1729 to Monsieur de Castillion, Prevot of St. Pharailde etc.

In Ghent


If it is true that the guitar is the cithara of Holy Scriptures, as Mr. Furetiere seems to say in his dictionary, (Note1) one notes at once the antiquity of the instrument, and how it has sweetness and charm. It may be this [instrument] that is mentioned in Genesis, Chapter 4, (Note 2) and this of which Isaiah (Note 3) has said that its sweetness is silenced - conticuit dulcedo citharae - when in Chapter 24 he describes the frightful image of the desolation and the ruin of Babylon and Jerusalem. I will leave this research to the curious, and if the learned do not agree on its great antiquity, everyone agrees that the guitar is an instrument of much harmony, and that it has always provided amusement for Princes in their precious hours of leisure. But as in this world all is subject to changes of fortune, it seems that the great king, Louis XIV, was the last who learnt to play it, and that at present it is the turn of the guitar to languish.

The celebrated François Corbet[ta] introduced it to the Low Countries, and after he had dedicated his book to the Archdukes Albert and Isabelle, (Note 4) all the nobility in Brussels took a pride in playing it. And at the end of the last century, and at the beginning of the present, I have also seen that the guitar alone was a la mode, and that Madame l'Electrice de Bavaria (Note 5) learnt from Mr. François Le Cocq, today a retired musician of the Chapel Royal of the Court.

The manner and turn of phrase which he gave to the pieces which he composed in the style of the music of that period, showed such a high standard of perfection that he was judged the most talented master to have appeared up to that time. It was after having heard him play the guitar many times, with a finesse and astonishing delicacy, that I took up this noble and melodious instrument again after more than twenty years, which I had abandoned, being occupied by my employment in more serious affairs; and I tried to play those same airs with which he had the honour more than once of amusing her serene highness, the Archduchess, sister of the Emperor Charles VI (Note6), our august sovereign and king, governor of the Low Countries, in the salon of that illustrious Princess.

Some little service which I happened to perform for him, and the long standing acquaintance which he had with me, prompted him to present them [the pieces] to me written in his own hand, authenticated with his signature, which I have copied for my own use likewise in this book, which I have also prepared and ruled myself for this purpose. I add to this collection after the airs of Monsieur Le Cocq some pieces by other masters who excelled in the last century. One finds in those of Monsieur François Corbet[ta] much gravity; Monsieur Lelio [Colista] has added to his an agreeable sweetness. It seems to me that Michel Perez de Zavala, a Spaniard and master of my honourable father in Madrid in about 1690 (Note 7), has not imitated these two excellent authors at all badly. The pieces of Monsieur Gaspar Sanchez [Sanz], also Spanish, and Monsieur Jean Baptiste Granata, an Italian, have their merits; the chaconnes and passacalles of the latter go very well. Monsieur Robert de Visée is renowned throughout all France for the honour which he has had of playing so often before the great king, Louis XIV. And to him he dedicated his "Livre de guitarre" in the year 1682, a work with which he made his mark for many years. Mr. Saint-Luc (Note 8) was of great repute around the same time and played the guitar. Finally Mr. Nicolas Derosier, ordinary of the music of his highness the Elector Palatine, and very well versed in music, has made a study devoted entirely to the guitar and so that it might be more perfect, he has invented the guitarre angelique with eight strings more than usual. He has presented to the public a book about the one and the other in the year 1691. (Note 9) I have copied some pieces by all of these composers, and they will be found after those of Monsieur François Le Cocq.

I include at the beginning of the book the "Principles of the guitar", where I explain the signs and symbols which one finds in the tablature. Whenever the masters have anything unusual, I try to make it clear, above all the harpegemens of Mr. Le Cocq which give to his pieces an incomparable charm. I have similarly explained all that which one needs to know about music in order to play this instrument well. And after everything else I give an alphabetical summary of the names of the airs and the terms of music most used, with a full explanation and instructions.

May it please heaven that this book may fall into the hands of some amateur who may be able to play from my efforts after my death. Made at Ghent during the course of the year 1730.


Collection of pieces for guitar composed by Mr. François Le Cocq, retired musician of the Chapel Royal in Brussels

I will praise God My Creator with the guitar



Collection of pieces for guitar by the best masters of the seventeenth century


(1) Furetiere, Antoine published several dictionaries including "Dictionnaire universelle françois et latin…" (1704); "Dictionnaire universel, contenant generalement les mots français …"(1690); "Essais d'un dictionnaire universel contenant generalement tous les mots français …"(1685). Return to text

(2) Genesis, Ch.4, 21-21 - His [Jabel's] brother's name was Jubal : he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ. Return to text

(3) Isaiah Ch.24, 8 - the joy of the harp ceaseth. Return to text

(4) Archduke Albert (1559-1621), nephew of Philip II of Spain appointed governor of the Netherlands, 26th April, 1595. He married the daughter of Philip II, Isabella Clara Eugenia (1566-1633) in 1599. Castillion may be mistaken in thinking that Corbetta dedicated a book of guitar tablature to them. His first book tablature "De gli scherzi armonici" (Bologna : Monti, 1639) was published after both had died. His fourth book "Varii scherzi di sonate", printed in Brussels in 1648, is dedicated to Archduke Leopold William of Austria. This may be what Castillion had in mind. Return to text

(5) There were two Electors of Bavaria during the possible span of his career.

1. Maximillian II Emanuel, Elector between 1690-1725, married Maria Antonia (daughter of Emperor Leopold I by his first wife, and half sister of Emperor Charles VI) in July 1685. She died in 1692. He married his second wife, Theresa Kunigunde, daughter of John III Sobieska (King of Poland) in January, 1695. She died in 1730.

2. Karl Albrecht, Elector between 1725-1745, married Maria Amelia, daughter of Emperor Joseph I in 1722. She died in 1756.

Maria Antonia is the most likely of the three to have been Le Cocq's pupil. Return to text

(6) Holy Roman Emperor 1711-1740, son of Emperor Leopold I by his third wife. As he had six full sisters it is not certain whether Castillion is referring the half sister, Maria Antonia or to one of the others. Return to text

(7) Owing to a misunderstanding it has sometimes been suggested that it was the father of Le Cocq, or even Le Cocq himself who studied with Perez de Zavala. In addition to the three manuscripts associated with Castillion, a manuscript in the Biblioteca de Catalunya, Ms.M.3658, includes a Xicona attributed to Miguel Perez, possibly the same person. Return to text

(8) Saint-Luc, Jacques (1616-1710), Flemish lutenist and composer. Return to text

(9) Nicolas Derosier - "Les principes de la guitarre" (Amsterdam : 1691). Book about the angelique not traced. Return to text

Return to Front Page