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Pierre ATTAIGNANT (ed): "Que je chatoulle ta fossette - Danceries"

Doulce Mémoire
Dir: Denis Raisin Dadre

rec: Feb & April 2009, Fontevraud, Abbaye (réfectoire)
Ricercar - RIC 294 (© 2010) (73'53")

Pierre ATTAIGNANT (ed): Allemande 2 [9]; Allemande 4 [9]; Allemande 5 [9]; Allemande 6 [9]; Allemande Et d'où venez vous [9]; Basse danse 1 [3]; Basse danse 3 [3]; Basse danse Auprès de vous [5]; Basse danse La brosse [3]; Basse danse La gatta en italien [3]; Basse danse La Magdalena [3]; Basse danse La scarpa my faict mal [3]; Basse danse Le corps s'en va [2]; Branle gay 7 [7]; Branle gay 23 [5]; Branle gay 28 [5]; Branle gay 42 [5]; Branle gay Que je chatoulle ta fossette [5]; Bransles de Bourgogne [9]; Bransles de Poictou [7]; Gaillarde [4]; Gaillarde [8]; Gaillarde 10 [3]; Gaillarde 15 [3]; Madame Lucette [9]; Pavane [2]; Pavane [6]; Pavane 8 [3]; Pavane 18 [4]; Pavane 19 [6]; Pavane des Dieux [8]; Pavane La sguizera [3]; Pavane M'amye est tant honneste & Gaillarde [6]; Pavane première & Gaillarde première [10]; Prélude [1]; Première suytte de Bransles d'Escosse [10]; Tourdion [3]; Tourdion 8 [5]; Tourdion 9 [5]; Tourdion 39 [5]; Pierre SANDRIN (c1490?-after 1560): M'amye est tant honneste (S 49); Réveillez vous, mes damoyselles (S 39); Claudin DE SERMISY (c1490-1562): Amour pense que je dorme; Auprès de vous; Languir me fais

(Sources: Pierre Attaignant (ed): [1] Très brève et familière introduction pour entendre et apprendre ..., 1529; [2] Dix huit Basses dances garnies de recoupes et tordions, 1530; [3] Premier Livre de Danceries, 1530; [4] Quatorze Pavanes ... le tout de réduit de musique ..., 1531; [5] Deuxième Livre de Danceries, 1547; [6] Quart Livre de Danceries, 1550; [7] Cinquième de Danceries, 1550; [8] Sixième Livre de Danceries; [9] Troisième Livre de Danceries, 1557; [10] Septième Livre de Danceries, 1557

Paulin Bündgen, alto; Denis Raisin-Dadre, Elsa Frank, Johanne Maître, Jérémie Papasergio, recorder, oboe; Hélène Houzel, Sophie Cerf Françoise Rojat, Mathurin Matharel, renaissance violin; Pascale Boquet, lute; Angélique Mauillon, harpe; Bruno Caillat, percussion

In the early stages of the rediscovery of early music - meaning at that time: the music of the middle ages and the renaissance - ensembles entered the stage with large batteries of exotic instruments most people in the audience had never seen before, let alone heard. There was a strong preference for loud wind instruments, and an important part of the repertoire was dance music. Since then much has happened. The repertoire has been extended, and the performance practice has evolved.

In particular for those who have experienced the rediscovery of early music it is nice to hear again now and then the repertoire which was popular at the time. The ensemble Doulce Mémoire has produced a fine recording with dance music of the 16th century. At that time very few original instrumental music existed. Instruments were used to support singers - the so-called colla parte practice - or to play transcriptions of vocal pieces. Virtually the only original instrumental music was dance music. In particular in the 16th century many collections of dance music were printed, and among them are the various publications of Pierre Attaignant.

Attaignant was born in or near Douai, and died in Paris. Although he probably went to Paris for musical reasons he soon became involved in printing and selling books, and that is what he has become famous for. In 1527/28 his first publication was the Chansons nouvelles which was followed by seven other collections of the same kind within one year. This was only a foretaste of what was to come. Attaignant was the first printer who published large numbers of collections of music which often saw two or three editions. The minimum number of copies printed is estimated at about 1,000 which means that Attaignant's business is considered the first to achieve mass production.

Attaignant mainly printed music by composers working in France as well as composers from the Franco-Flemish school who worked in the Low Countries. He has become best-known in our time, though, through the many books of dance music for ensembles, from which Doulce Mémoire has taken the music on this disc. These pieces were originally mostly written in a single part, but Attaignant printed them in arrangements for an ensemble of instruments. Although he wasn't a composer himself, it is assumed he was knowledgeable enough to be able to make this kind of arrangements. It is possible that composers of his time were involved; Claude Gervaise is known to have been one of those who at least revised and corrected some of the books with dance music.

The tracklist shows the variety of dance forms in vogue at the time, as the basse dance, the pavane, the bransle and the gaillarde. The basse dance - and the bransle as one if its forms - was the main court dance in the 15th century, and disappeared during the second half of the 16th century. The allemande, the pavane and the gaillarde, on the other hand, survived well into the 18th century. The allemande ended as one of the standard movements in the keyboard suite.

The performances on this disc show how the performance practice of this kind of music has changed. Firstly, instead of putting instruments of various families together, most dances are played with instruments from the same family. There are several items on this disc, though, where string instruments are joined by recorders, like Bransles de Bourgogne. The booklet doesn't give an explanation for this. Otherwise we hear ensembles of oboes, recorders or violins. And this is the second difference with the performance practice of about 40 years ago: string instruments are more often used, and here in particular the consort of violins is notable, whereas often one hears a consort of viols in this repertoire. Some pieces are performed with a combination of lute and harp, which can also be heard solistically in a couple of dances.

The titles of many dances suggest they have been adapted from chansons, and this has led to the addition of some chansons by two composers of Attaignant's time: Pierre Sandrin and Claudin de Sermisy. In them a solo voice is supported by lute and harp.

If one still has the sound of early music ensembles from the 1960s and 1970s in one's ears this disc is going to change one's perception of this repertoire. The variety of the instruments reflects the various places where this kind of music was played. Loud wind instruments - here the oboes (shawms and bombards) - were used for performances in the open air, whereas the violins were used in more intimate settings. "We should also note, given the findings of recent research into tunings used in France during the Renaissance, that the violind are tuned in the low tuning of A=392 Hertz, whilst the wind instruments are tuned to A=520 Hertz, a fourth higher", Denis Raisin-Dadre writes in the programme notes.

This disc is enjoyable throughout. Not only is the repertoire entertaining - and the most obvious pieces which are often included in performances have been avoided -, they are also performed with infectious enthusiasm and technical brilliance. The ensemble is excellent, and so is the playing of the lute and the harp. The chansons are sung by Paulin Bündgen, who is called a male soprano in the booklet, but in my ears - and according to information on the internet - just a male alto. He has a nice voice and sings the chansons beautifully.

Therefore there is every reason to recommend this disc. I have only minor reservations. Firstly, I don't understand why recorders and violins are mixed, as I wrote above. Secondly, in many pieces percussion is added - too often, in my view. Lastly, the unhistorical pronunciation of the texts of the chansons is regrettable.

Johan van Veen (© 2010)

Relevant links:

Doulce Mémoire

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