L’Esprit Galant: Airs de Cour

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Program: #05-07   Air Date: Feb 07, 2005

All of the music on this program is from a live concert given at the Holland Festival of Early Music at Utrecht 2004 featuring Johanette Zomer, soprano, and Fred Jacobs, theorbo.

Marcel Bijlo writes of this program:

"In France in the second half of the seventeenth century song was a very delicate genre which flourished especially at the courts of Louis XIII and XIV and in the Parisian salons. Michel Lambert may well be considered the most important, or in any case the most productive composer of songs. He wrote as many as twenty books of these airs de cour. Unfortunately most of these have been lost. Lambert borrowed his texts from many poets, among others from Pierre Perrin. Despite the preference of his contemporaries for a form of recitative grafted on the French language, Lambert used the Italian style of recitative in, for example, Ombre de mon Amant. Only thirty-two airs by Sébastien Le Camus survive in print, published by his son Charles. Songs by Le Camus also turn up in various collections with works by different composers. The instrumental bass lines of Le Camus are freer than those of Lambert and harmonically Le Camus’ music is more fanciful. Lambert focuses rather on the _expression of the text, while in Le Camus’ music the instrumental part has been worked out further. Robert de Visée, the third great composer of airs, was a lutenist at the court and from 1695 he was also the guitar teacher of Louis XIV. He wrote exclusively for the guitar and theorbo. Lully, who was from origin Italian, integrated the airs de cour into his ballets de cour and later in his comédies-ballets and his tragédies lyriques. His opponents considered him a ‘coarse peasant from Tuscany’. However, the airs that will be sung today show that, when necessary, Lully could easily exchange his Tuscan coarseness for French delicacy. Furthermore, Lully succeeded in excluding his rival Marc-Antoine Charpentier from the court without much effort. Charpentier was not such a megalomaniac as Lully and he composed more for intimate ensembles. This concert will end with his outstanding Sans Frayeur dans ce Bois, based on a theme of a chaconne."

Broadcast of this program is made possible with the generous support of RNW, Radio Netherlands World Service.

Michel Lambert 1610-1696
Vous éprouver toujours sévère
Ombre de mon amant (1689)
Il n’est point d’amour sans peine (1689)
Rochers vous êtes sourds
Vos mépris chaque jour (1689)

Jean Baptiste Lully 1632-1687
Entreé d’Apollon (1681) instrumental Heureux qui peut plaire (1673) instrumental
Les Echos d’Atis (1676) instrumental

Sébastien le Camus ca.1610-1677
Laissez durer la nuit (1678)
Qu’une longue tiédeur ennuie (1678)
Amour, cruel Amour (1678)

Robert de Visée ca.1655-na 1720
Prélude instrumental

Marc-Antoine Charpentier 1643-1704
Ah ! Laissez moi rêver

Robert de Visée
La mascarade instrumental

Marc-Antoine Charpentier
Ruisseau qui nourris dans ce bois

Robert de Visée
Chaconne instrumental
Marc-Antoine Charpentier
Ah ! qu’on est malheureux (1678)

Robert de Visée
Menuet instrumental
Marc-Antoine Charpentier
Retirons-nous, fuyons (1728)
Sans frayeur dans ce bois (Chaconne, 1680) 

Composer Info

Michel Lambert 1610-1696, Jean Baptiste Lully 1632-1687, Sébastien le Camus ca.1610-1677, Robert de Visée ca.1655-na 1720, Marc-Antoine Charpentier 1643-1704

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