Robert Ballard

(b ?Paris, c1575; d after 1649)

French lutenist and composer.

He apparently never took part in the family business. His father's (printer Robert Ballard) partner Adrian Le Roy was probably his first lute teacher; after Le Roy's death in 1598 he became a lutenist of some distinction, and by 1600 he was teaching the lute to his landlord's son in lieu of part of his rent. In 1611 he published his first lutebook, and in the following year the regent, Maria de' Medici, employed him as her maitre de luth; in this capacity he became responsible in September 1612 for the tuition of the young King Louis XIII.

In 1615 he was still in Maria's service and performed on the lute in the Ballet de Madame; but in the retrenchments of court expenditure of 1618 his salaried position was terminated and he was henceforth paid only as required. Under this arrangement he continued for 16 years to bear the title 'musicien ordinaire du roi' and, although a notarial act of 1640 mentioned him only as 'joueur de luth', he was again designated 'musicien du Roy' in 1650. After that date nothing further is known of him.

Most of his works are ballet music arranged for lute and, apart from their musical value, are important as the only extant portions of several court ballets. His sequences of two or three chants in the ballets of 1611 may be seen as early moves in the direction of suite formation, and employ a number of technical effects later to be particularly associated with the sarabande. Partly because he was in a position to ensure that his music survived in a form of which he approved, Robert Ballard may be seen as the outstanding French lutenist at the end of the Renaissance tradition, before the onset of the new style associated with Rene Mesangeau in the 1620s.

His works are almost all in vieil ton tuning, with the robust four-part texture and clearly defined melodic contours of dance music. But, particularly in the doubles of his courantes, he exploits the low tessitura and unpredictably broken texture of the style brise. His works are the defining model for this phase of French lute music, and the seven pieces published by his brother Pierre in the Tablature de luth de differents autheurs (Paris, 1631), among works by younger contemporaries, have a rather old-fashioned appearance in spite of being in a new tuning.


all for lute

[Premier livre de luth] (Paris, 1611/R) [lacks title-page], ed. A. Souris, S. Spycket and M. Rollin (Paris, 1963, 2/1976)

Diverses piesces mises sur le luth (Paris, 1614), ed. A. Souris and others, Deuxieme livre (1614), et pieces diverses (Paris, 1964, 2/1976)

Some works in 160315, 161023, 16316, L. de Moy: Le petit bouquet de frise orientale (n.p., 1631), M. Mersenne: Harmonie universelle (Paris, 1636--7/R; Eng. trans., 1957)

Other works, CZ-Pu, D-Bsb, Ngm, W, GB-Cfm
up down