music for harpsichord and lute, by Bach, De Visée, Froberger
and Couperin, was intended to test the feasibility of that combination
of instruments in a number of different musical roles; equal partners,
as they had been during the sixteenth century, co-conspirators,
a role placed on them by endless continuo duty, and competitors,
in which the expressive but quiet lute eventually lost out to
the harpsichord's clarity and extroverted character.
In the Froberger suite
the lute plays from the bass. The vocal-style music is accompanied with
chords whereas the woven-texture pieces, the Courante and Gigue, are given
what would have been called a "contrepartie" or a written counterpoint.
In the Bach trio sonata, both instruments treat exactly the same material
with different results. The De Visée and Couperin musettes carry
the writing of contrepartie to its limits as the harpsichord suggests
the drone of the hurdy-gurdy and bagpipe, and the lute plays the heavily