Louis Pernot

Research and options of interpretation


Interested by contemporary musicians’ and musicologists’ research and discoveries, Louis Pernot has developed his own method of research for the interpretation of baroque music.by studying all the relevant documents of the time many of which he owns either the original or a copy.


The instrument and the strings

Naturally, the instrument is essential and one must work alongside the lute maker. Research is difficult as there are no entirely original instruments (incl. the bridges for example). Most of them have been roughly restored and the best preserved ones may seem to be the most beautiful but they were not necessarily the best ones nor did they necessarily belong to professionnal lute players

The question of strings is covered in the section « instruments ». This study is essential because the way they vibrate can dictate the style of playing (eg. with gut strings it is not generally necessary to dampen the bass and there is a brightness in the sound which allows a faster tempo in certain pieces.

Instrumental technique

It is well mastered nowadays by most lute players .

But some characteristic points remain.

the position of the right hand in particular. Many players to day look for a relatively « round » sound by playing close to the rose. This is acceptable for 18th century music but the drawings and treatises of the 17th century show that one must play quite close to the bridge. It implies slightly less tightened strings and it gives a particular sound, less round, perhaps less pleasant to the ears but coherent with the sound of other instruments of the period. It is possible that at the time, harpsichords were built with a more round sound. Simply plucking the strings farther from the bridge would have been sufficient.

Working on manuscript sources

If certain pieces have come to us through books printed and engraved under the control of the author (Gautier, Mouton etc.) many come from diverse manuscripts which may show important variances.

For Louis Pernot, it is important to work on the sources in order to find the version closest to the intention of the author. For that reason, working on manuscripts is indispensable.

More simply, one must have an idea of the value of a manuscript by comparing for example the version it gives of a piece available in a more reliable version (for ex. printed) to know how much one can trust the pieces missing in that reliable source.Thanks to these pieces one can see the tendencies of a manuscript in its proper misrepresentation (like ornementation, arpeggiation etc.) in order to correct the particular orientations.


Interpretation of 17th and 18th century music

In many respects, the question is the same for all instruments playing music of the period, even for singing; One must not work solely with treatises concerning the lute.

Louis Pernot has drawn particular attention to a certain number of points:

The Unevenness of certain note values, (often the quavers) always there, and even in 18th century music, nearly ALL the treatises mention it. But it must be subtle, natural and never systematic.

The Silences of articulation (silence preceding the playing of each note) means of expression essential at the time (and indispensable for instruments without dynamic resources like the harpsichord). An elongated silence before a note may highlight it. It is thus essential to think and control individually the silence which precedes each note.

The tempos - most of the 17th century composers are unanimously in agreement on the tempos of each dance, allemande, courante, saraband, etc.There is no reason to be arbitrary.

The characteristics of the dances are well known through treatises, not only for the tempo but also for the accentuation of certain beats, the more or less marked unevenness etc. All this was well codified but is virtually unknown to day.

The ornementations - essential but it must be subtle without disrupting the tempo or the melody

The arpeggiations pertinent to the technique of the lute

And most of all, dance has inspired the work of Louis Pernot. Practically all the instrumental music of the second half of the 17th century in France was originally dance music. Very important research on the matter has been done recently by dancers. Since the musicians also play for the dancers, the researchers must come to the same conclusions. To dance a courante for example, the dancers need a certain tempo, a certain dynamic. An instrumentalist playing alone may take some liberties but a courante must remain a courante, a saraband a saraband etc

This approach gives the music a structure and a dynamism which allows it to escape from unorthodox melodicism Consequently, Louis Pernot has been able to present Bach’s « Suite in G minor » (for example) with a baroque dance company rediscovering the opus in a totally different way.



Sarabande de Dufaut

Video: Dufaut: Sarabande and double in g minor


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