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Michel LAMBERT (1610 - 1696): "D'un Feu Secret - Airs de Cour"

Musica Favola
Dir: Stephan Van Dyck

rec: Feb 2010, Fernelmont, Église
Accent - ACC 24234 (© 2010) (70'42")

Michel LAMBERT: D'un feu secret je me sens consumer; Dans nos bois Tircis aperçut; Doux charme du Printemps; Iris n'est plus, mon Iris m'est ravie; Le repos, l'ombre, le silence; Ma Bergere est tendre & fidelle; Mes yeux, que vos plaisirs; Ombre de mon Amant; Par mes chants Tristes & touchants; Pourquoy faut il belle inhumaine; Que faites vous Silvie; Superbes ennemis du repos de mon ame; Vos mespris chaque jour; Jean-Baptiste LULLY (1632-1687): Trios pour le coucher du Roi (LWV 35): 3 Chaconnes; Dans nos bois Silvandre s'escrie, menuet; Gavotte; La jeune Iris, menuet; Menuet; 2 Symphonies

Stephan Van Dyck, tenor; Ryo Terakado, Myriam Gevers, violin; Kaori Uemura, viola da gamba; Benjamin Perrot, theorbo, guitar; Aline Zylberajch, harpsichord

Michel Lambert and Jean-Baptiste Lully were two of the dominating figures at the music scene in France in the 17th century. There were also related, as Lully married Lambert's daughter Madeleine in 1660. Whereas Lully was mainly known as composer of music for the theatre, Lambert's fame was largely based on his airs de cour of which he composed nearly 300.

Lambert was educated as a choirboy in the chapel of Gaston d'Orléans, the elder brother of King Louis XIII. In the 1640s he started to make a career as a singer in Paris, where he enjoyed the patronage of several people, among them Cardinal Richelieu. He married a singer, and it is probably also through his sister-in-law, also a famous singer, that he had access to the court. In 1651 Lambert performed as a dancer in ballets at the court of Louis XIV, who had become formally King in 1643. His first airs de cour were printed in collections published by Christophe Ballard in the 1650s. The first publication which was entirely devoted to his own airs appeared in 1660. From 1661 until his death he held the position of maître de la musique de la chambre du roi. Lully not only was his son-in-law, they also worked together as Lambert wrote récits and dialogues for Lully's ballets.

This disc contains a selection from Lambert's airs de cour as well as instrumental pieces which are taken from the Trios pour le choucher du Roi by Lully. The second track contains the foreword from Lambert's collection of 1660 which is dedicated to Monsieur de Niert, a nobleman and courtier as well as a singer and singing teacher. He had a strong influence on Lambert. From 1633 to 1635 he had visited Rome and was struck by the dramatic singing in the Italian opera. His ideas about the connection between text and music, a natural prosody and clarity of pronunciation and declamation derived from what he had heard in Italy. Lambert was one of his students, another was Bénigne de Bacilly, who published a treatise in 1668 which gives much information about the way of singing in 17th-century France.

One of the interesting aspects of this recording is that in the second stanzas of several airs Stephan Van Dyck makes use of the doubles which Lambert added to his airs. These ornamented versions of the original vocal line give a good idea of the Italian influence on Lamberts compositional style. The ornamentation is not less abundant than what we know from Italian practice at the time, but less dramatic and more refined and subtle. That is also the effect of the character of the air de cour which is mostly of a largely pastoral nature. We meet the likes of Sylvie and Iris, and zephyrs (winds) and the nightingale also turn up. These are typical features of the secular music of the 17th century, and would later be included in the French chamber cantata of the early 18th. Lambert used texts by some of the best poets of his time, and that has resulted in the airs de cour being of a high literary and musical level.

Most airs by Lambert were scored for solo voice and basso continuo, but a second book with airs, which was printed in 1689, contained some pieces for two to five voices. To several songs instrumental ritornellos were added, for two treble instruments and bc. This trio texture is also followed by Lully in his Trios pour le coucher du Roi. Here they are mostly played with two violins and bc, but some are performed at the harpsichord only.

There is one other aspect of this recording which deserves attention: the historical pronunciation of the texts. In the booklet Stephan Van Dyck explains the reasoning behind this practice.
"It seemed to me that, for the interpretation of the poetry of these 'Airs de cour', all the natural musicality of the seventeenth century French language is indispensable.
Indeed, with the pronunciation of final consonants, the typical colour of certain vowels and the absence of nasality, these poetic texts are enriched with many nuances, thus providing the word with considerable depth."
Due to this pronunciation which is called restituée "the poetry itself becomes a source of melody". At the same time the music "reinforces the expression and brings to it the intensity required for the understanding and perception of the text".

The performances support this observation. The pronunciation contributes to the communication of the content of the various airs, and so does Stephan Van Dyck's sensitive interpretation. It is notable that his performances of some airs are more powerful than is the case in other recordings, for instance of Lambert's most famous air Ombre de mon Amant. Recently I reviewed a disc by Anne Sofie von Otter and Les Arts Florissants which also contains three airs by Lambert. These are sung here as well, and Stephan Van Dyck's performances are far superior to the caricatural 'interpretation' of Ms Von Otter. The refinement and the quality of Lambert's airs is impressively revealed here. The instrumentalists give excellent support, and give colourful and engaging performances of the instrumental pieces by Lully and the ritornello's in Lambert's airs.

The booklet includes programme notes in French, English and German and all the lyrics with translations in English and German. The only regret is that the identity of the instrumental pieces by Lully is not specified.

Johan van Veen (© 2011)

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