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"N'espérez plus, mes yeux ... Airs sérieux et à boire, Vol. 3"

Les Arts Florissants
Dir: William Christie

rec: Jan 2019, Paris, Banque de France (Galerie dorée)
Harmonia mundi - HAF 8905318 (© 2021) (81'40")
Liner-notes: E/D/F; lyrics - translations: E/D
Cover, track-list & booklet

anon: Libertas & Sarabande italienne; Prélude pour l'Allemande cromatique & Allemande cromatique [14]; Suite (bransle; gay; bransle à mener; double); Symphonie [14]; Antoine BOESSET (1587-1643): N'espérez plus, mes yeuxa [13]; Pierre GUÉDRON (c1565-1620): Aux plaisirs, aux délices bergèresabcde [9]; Belle qui m'avez blesséabcde [6]; Bien qu'un cruel martireabcde [4]; Cessés mortels de soupirerc [8]; Lorsque j'étais petite garceabcde [4]; Que dit-on au village?abde [4]; Quel espoir de guarire [5]; Claude LE JEUNE (c1530-1600): Allons, allons gay gaymentabcde [7]; Rendés-la moy cruelleabcde [7]; Rossignol mon mignonabcde [2]; Suzanne un jourabcde [1]; Étienne MOULINIÉ (1599-1676): Dans le lit de la mortd [10]; Dialogue de la Nuit et du Soleilabcde [11]; O che gioia ne sento mio beneb [12]; Ô doux sommeilabcde [15]; Souffrez, beaux yeux pleins de charmesac [12]; Pierre VERDIER (c1627-c1706): Lamento

Sources: [1] Adrien Le Roy/Robert Ballard, ed., Mellange de chansons tant des vieux autheurs que des modernes, à 5, 6, 7 & 8 parties, 1572; [2] Claude Le Jeune, Meslanges de la musique de Claude Le Jeune à 4, 5, 6, 8 & 10 parties, 1587; [3] Antoine Boesset, Airs de cour à 4 & 5 parties, 1608; [4] Pierre Guédron, Airs de cour à 4 & 5 parties, 1608; [5] Gabriel Bataille, ed., Airs de différents autheurs mis en tablature de luth, Livre III, 1611; [6] Pierre Guédron, Airs de cour à 4 & 5 parties, Livre II, 1612; [7] Claude Le Jeune, Second Livre de Meslanges, 1612; [8] Gabriel Bataille, ed., Airs de différents autheurs mis en tablature de luth, Livre IV, 1613; [9] Pierre Guédron, Airs de cour à 4 & 5 parties, Livre III, 1617; Étienne Moulinié, [10] Airs avec la tablature de luth, 1624; [11] Airs de cour avec la tablature de luth et de guitarre, Second livre, 1625; [12] Airs de cour avec la tablature de luth et de guitarre, Troisième livre, 1629; [13] Antoine Boesset, Air de cour avec la tablature de luth, 1643; [14] Robert Ballard, ed., Pièces pour le violon à 4 parties de différents autheurs, 1665; [15] Étienne Moulinié, VIe Livre d'airs à 4 parties avec la Basse continue, 1668

Emanuelle de Negri, sopranoa; Anna Reinhold, mezzo-sopranob; Cyril Auvity, haute-contrec; Marc Mauillon, baritoned; Lisandro Abadie, basse
Tami Troman, Emmanuel Resche, violin; Simon Heyerick, viola; Myriam Rignol, viola da gamba; Thomas Dunford, theorbo; William Christie, harpsichord

In 2016 Harmonia mundi released a disc with Airs sérieux et à boire, performed by Les Arts Florissants, directed by William Christie. It shed light on a genre that was highly popular in France from the late 16th century to around 1700. It was followed by a sequel in 2019; both discs focused on airs of different kinds from the second half of the 17th century. The third volume, to be reviewed here, takes us back to the first half of the 17th century, when the air de cour, which was the basis of the later genres of air sérieux and air à boire, was the main form of non-liturgical vocal music in France. The programme even goes back to the late 16th century, when the first airs de cour were written - then in the form of polyphony - and writers and composers looked for a kind of chanson that would make the text more easily intelligible.

The programme starts and closes with pieces by Claude Le Jeune, who returns in the middle of the programme with two further chansons. He was one of the most prominent composers in France in the second half of the 16th century. In 1552 four chansons from his pen were included in anthologies which were published in Leuven. Many of his chansons are so-called airs mesurés. This refers to a style of poetry, known as vers mesurés, firstly written by Jean-Antoine de Baïf, member of a group of poets known as the Pléiade. "Baïf attempted to apply the quantitative principles of Greek and Latin poetry to the French language, by its nature accentual, and worked out an accentual version of classical metres – hexameters, Sapphic strophes, and so on – by equating long with accented syllables and short with unaccented syllables." (New Grove) Several composers followed his ideals, and Le Jeune was one of them. In his settings of poems he strictly follows the metre of the verse, sets long syllables to a minim and short syllables to a crotchet. However, in this recording we don't get such chansons, but rather those which have strong declamatory traces, which is another department in which Le Jeune influenced the development of the air de cour.

In 1571 Adrian Le Roy was the first to publish a collection of songs that were called airs de cour, to be sung to a lute accompaniment. It was the start of a victory march of the genre in France under the reign of Henry IV (1589-1610) and Louis XIII (1610-1643) respectively. In that period about 2,300 airs were printed. The main representatives of the air de cour are represented: Étienne Moulinié, Pierre Guédron and his son-in-law Antoine Boesset. All of them have their own identity in musical matters. Moulinié was the only composer who not only published songs on a French text, but also in Italian and Spanish. An example of the former is O che goia ne sento mio bene. A number of his airs were published in different versions: for four voices and for solo voice, either with lute or unaccompanied. In this programme two dialogues are included; in Souffrez, beaux yeux pleins de charmes a French woman makes mock of a Spanish man - an expression of the antagonism between France and Spain during the first half of the 17th century.

Guédron played a key role at the court. In 1601 he succeeded Le Jeune as compositeur de la chambre du roy and in 1603 was described in addition as maître des enfants de la musique. In 1604 he appears to have become maître en la musique de la chambre de sa majesté, and to have achieved the supreme position of surintendant des musiques de la chambre du roy in 1613. Guédron was a singer himself and also a singing teacher. Some of his airs are melodically rather simple, whereas others are very expressive and even dramatic. An example of an expressive air is Bien qu'un cruel martire. However, he also set popular songs, such as Lorsque j'étais petite garce, performed here a cappella. Guédron also contributed to the ballet de cour; Guédron's first book of airs de cour includes some airs de ballet.

Antoine Boesset became maître des enfants de la musique de la chambre du roy in 1613, maître de la musique de la reine in 1617, and surintendant des musiques de la chambre du roy in 1623; he held most if not all of these posts simultaneously until his death. His airs were published in nine books between 1617 and 1642. He also wrote music for many ballets. He is represented here by just one piece, N'espérez plus, mes yeux. It is especially interesting because the second stanza has the form of doubles, and therefore gives a clue about the ornamentation practice in the air de cour repertoire of the time.

Most songs are about love in one way or another, but part of the repertoire was spiritual. An impressive example is Dans le lit de la mort by Moulinié.

A large part of what is performed here is little-known. This is not surprising, given that the genre of the air de cour and the airs which followed them (as covered by the first and second volumes of this project) is not very often performed or recorded. Some airs have become better-known, for instance through a recording by the late Nigel Rogers, one of the pioneers of this repertoire. He recorded two of Moulinié's airs included here: Quel espoir de guarir and Cessés mortels de soupirer.

Overall, the performances are quite good. Unfortunately, in some pieces the two ladies use a bit too much vibrato. I am not sure whether the 'acting' in Moulinié's Souffrez, beaux jeux pleins de charmes is appropriate. Among the highlights are two of the solo items, mentioned above: Dans le lit de la mort by Moulinié, sung by Marc Mauillon, and Guédron's Cessés mortels de soupirer, performed by Cyril Auvity. The instrumentalists contribute some instrumental pieces.

Those who have the previous volumes should not hesitate to add this third instalment. I hope more is going to appear in the near future. As we have seen, there is not exactly a lack of repertoire.

Johan van Veen (© 2022)

Relevant links:

Les Arts Florissants

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