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"Si par fortune" - Consort music of the renaissance on transverse flutes

Les Joueurs de Traverse

rec: June 10 - 12, 2017, Morlaix (F), Chapelle des Ursulines
Son an ero - 09 (© 2017) (52'13")
Liner-notes: E/F/Breton
Cover & track-list

Pierre CERTON (c1510-1572): Le jour qu'amour; Mon père m'y veut marier; O comme heureux; Si par fortune; Ung jour que Madame dormoit; Ung jour un galland; Thomas CRECQUILLON (1505-1557): Dont vient cela; Johannes GALLUS (c1525-1587): Le bergier et la bergiere; Nicolas GOMBERT (1495-1560): Amours amours; Paul HOFHAIMER (1459-1537): Ach Lieb mit Leid; Claude LE JEUNE (c1530-c1600): Liberté, liberté; Revoicy venir du Printemps; JOSQUIN DESPREZ (c1450-1521): Mille regretz; JOSQUIN DESPREZ / Luiz DE NARVÁEZ (1490-1547): Mille regretz; Lorenz LEMLIN (c1495-after 1549): Ernstliche Klag; Johannes LUPI (1506-1539): Jectes moy sur l'herbette; Pierre DE MANCHICOURT (c1510-1564): Pren de bon cueur; Pierre PASSEREAU (1509-1553): Pourquoy donc ne fringuerons nous pas; Pierre SANDRIN (1490-1561): Doulce memoire; Pierre SANDRIN / Diego ORTIZ (c1510-c1570): Doulce memoire; Ludwig SENFL (c1486-c1542): Was wird es doch des Wunders noch; Claudin DE SERMISY (1495-1562) / Pierre ATTAINGNANT (c1494-c1552): Languir me fait; Maulgrez moy vis; Tant que vivray; Thomas STOLTZER (c1470-1526): Es dringt doher; Tielman SUSATO (c1510-c1570): Puisqu'en janvier; Philippe VERDELOT (1485-1530/1552): Fuggi fuggi cor mio; Quanto sia liet'in giorno; Vita della mia vita; Martin WOLFF (?-1502): Glück mit der Zeit

Jacques-Antoine Bresch, Hélène Douthe, Lucie Humbert, Céline Langlet, Sébastien Villoing, renaissance flutes

Very little original music for instrumental ensemble was written before the baroque period. Ensembles either supported singers in sacred or secular music, or played instrumental adaptations of vocal music. The two main categories of independent instrumental music were dances and consort music. The latter genre was especially popular in England; such music was originally intended for a consort of viols but could also be played on recorders or violins. The present disc sheds light on a wide-spread practice in the renaissance period: the instrumental performance of vocal music. Such recordings are not rare, but it is not that often played on a consort of transverse flutes. Between 2007 and 2013 Ramée released three discs of recordings by a consort of transverse flutes, but in comparison with discs by viol or recorder consorts, this kind of recordings is relatively rare.

Like viols and recorders, the renaissance flute was built in several pitches, according to the human voices, from treble to bass. Sébastien Villoing, in his liner-notes, writes: "Given the very wide two-and-a-half-octave range, the first three parts were usually played on the same type of instrument. And so there are two models of transverse flutes: the D tenor and the G bass, to which is sometimes added an A or G upper instrument." Instruments of higher pitch were made, but only tenor and bass flutes have survived. The Accademia Filarmonica in Verona owns five tenor and three bass flutes, which were possibly made in Germany. Les Joueurs de Traverse play on copies of these instruments.

They have chosen music from across Europe, as the names of the composers and the titles of the pieces show. However, the largest part of the programme is of French origin. The Attaignant Consort on Ramée offered a wider variety of music, but that is not meant as criticism of what is performed here. It is a delightful programme of pieces, in a mixture of the familiar and the little-known. Among the best-known pieces are Mille regretz by Josquin, Doulce mémoire by Sandrin and Tant que vivray by Sermisy. On the other end of the spectrum are unknown quantities such as Johannes Lupi, Lorenz Lemlin, Johannes Gallus and Martin Wolff. It is probably no coincident that some of them are from the German-speaking world. It seems to me that this part of European music of the renaissance receives less attention than French and Italian music.

There is also variety in time: Josquin (around 1500) is among the earliest composers, Claude Le Jeune (late 16th century) one of the latest. The number of flutes involved is not mentioned in the track-list. Not every piece is played by the entire ensemble; some are performed with just two flutes. In most cases the pieces are performed as they were written by the composer, but in some items the performers have included the diminutions by contemporaries or composers of a later generation. This is indicated in the header by mentioning them both, the second being the composer of the diminutions.

In his liner-notes Sébastien Villoing also refers to the important issues of temperament and pitch. "Renaissance music being mainly polyphonic and modal, favouring key change over pure chord intonation would have made no sense. Like many instruments of that time, flutes are therefore tuned to get as close as possible to natural intonation: only a few modes can be played but chords will sound pure, without beat". More problematic is the choice of pitch. There are largely three pitches: a=c383 Hz, c405 Hz and c430 Hz; some flutes are in 460 Hz and 360 Hz. The performers have opted for a pitch of a=415 Hz. That is probably the most practical solution, but it is a little ironic that this is exactly the pitch which was apparently not used at the time.

It doesn't probably matter much with regard to the performance of these pieces. The intonation is immaculate, and the playing is excellent. The programme has been put together in such a way that there is much variety. Moreover, some pieces are very short - less than one minute - and in order to avoid short-windedness, these are sometimes played with little space between them, as a kind of suite. This is a most enjoyable disc, which also is a bit painful in that it reminds us how little of the output of the likes of Le Jeune, Certon, Sandrin or Sermisy is available on disc in their original form. Where are the ensembles to explore that repertoire?

Johan van Veen (© 2019)

Relevant links:

Les Joueurs de Traverse

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