The Early French Baroque

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Program: #20-06   Air Date: Jan 27, 2020

Two recordings of Courtly Airs with the Zephyrus Flutes and Le Poème harmonique, and the Royal Ballet of the Night from 1653.

I. Aux Plaisirs, aux Delices Bergeres (Zephyrus Flutes/Nancy Hadden). Zephyrus CD ZF002.

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Renaissance flute consort Zephyrus Flutes, under the direction of Nancy Hadden, has just released their latest CD, Aux Plaisirs, aux Delices Bergeres.   This is the second in a series of French music for Renaissance flutes, based on research that Nancy completed during her AHRC Fellowship in the Creative and Performing Arts at Southampton.

The recording highlights the unique sound of the early modern flute.  Zephyrus play instruments made by Martin Wenner (Singen, Germany), which are modelled on the flutes now in the Accademia Filarmonica,Verona.  Amongst the best preserved and most beautiful examples of the forty or so original flutes which survive, they are at a low pitch of a=408, keyless, with characteristic narrow cylindrical bore and six finger holes. Their outward simplicity belies a characterful and sophisticated sound and a lightness and flexibility of response.  In the hands of a skilled player, the Renaissance flute is a vehicle for both virtuoso fireworks and the most delicate vocal expressiveness. It is a sound rarely heard today.

The new CD includes dances, diminutions for flutes and airs de cour from the 17th c. French court, and features soprano Julianne Baird in addition to the flute ensemble.  The first CD, Pierre Attaingnant, Chansons Musicales, Paris, 1533, featuring chansons for four Renaissance flutes, was released in 2013 to excellent reviews:

‘Nancy Hadden combines the artistry and technique of a fine flautist with a rare commitment to the Renaissance flute. As a result, she has long been the leading exponent of this instrument. She combines agility with beautiful sighing notes and tender sounds, proving again and again that the 16th century flute could be as expressive as its Baroque, Classical and mechanised descendants’.   Early Music Today

‘The Renaissance flute consort is all too rarely heard today, especially in proportion to its importance during the 16th century. Hearing Nancy Hadden’s flute consort, Zephyrus Flutes, is a rare treat…The playing is poised and delicate…a joy to hear’.   Music Web International


II. Airs de Cours (Le Poème Harmonique/Vincent Dumestre). Alpha CD 462.

Le Poeme Harmonique - Airs de Cour (1560-1650), 2 CDs
For more than a century, from the last Valois to the first years of the reign of Louis XIV, the air of the court was truly the emblematic genre of secular French music. The term testifies to the imprint and the transformation by worldly and literate circles of vocal genres of popular origin like vaudeville, mixed with Italian influences (villanelle), based on the principles of a simple musical strophism which facilitated a better understanding of the poetic text. 
It was above all three composers who dominated the production of court tunes under the reigns of Henri IV and Louis XIII, bringing the genre to its peak: Pierre Guédron (1565-1620), Antoine Boesset (1587-1643) and Etienne Moulinié (1599-1676). 
On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of his ensemble, Vincent Dumestre has chosen to celebrate the Air de Cour by gathering extracts from his five recordings dedicated to them.
A book accompanies this double album with a text written by Thomas Leconte, of the Baroque Music Center of Versailles.
A rich iconography and historical lighting by Alexandre Maral, general curator at the National Castle Museum of
Versailles, complete the book.
1 | Anonyme - Nos esprits libres et contents
2 | Anonyme - Ballet des fous & des estropiés de la cervelle
3 | Henri Le Bailly - Passacalle, La Folie
4 | EtienneMoulinié - Air du Juif Errant : Salamalec Ô Rocoha...
5 | EtienneMoulinié -Concert de différents oyseaux
6 | JeanBoyer - J: Airs à quatre parties, Livre I: Que feray-je?
7 | Antoine Boesset - Frescos ayres del prado
8 | Pierre Guédron - Cessez mortels de soupirer
9 | Fabrice-MarinCaietain - Airs mis en musique... sur les poësies de P. de Ronsard & autres excelens poëtes: Mais voyez mon cher esmoy
10 | Girard de Beaulieu -Helas que me faut-il faire
11 | Adrian LeRoy - Le: Second livre de guiterre: Ô combien est heureuse
12 | EtienneMoulinié - Dialogue : Espagnol, je te supplie...
13 | EtienneMoulinié - Tout se peint de verdure...
14 | CharlesTessier -Air de court: Me voila hors du naufrage
15 | CharlesTessier - Air espagnol: No ay en la tierra
16 | Antoine Boesset - À la fin cette bergère
17 | Didier Le Blanc - Sus mon lut, d'un accord pitoyable
18 | GuillaumeCosteley - J'ayme trop mieux souffrir la mort
19 | EtienneMoulinié -Chanson gasconne : L'auzel ques sul bouyssou...
20 | Pierre Guédron - A Paris sur petit pont
21 | Luis deBriceño - Çaravanda: Andalo çaravanda
22 | Antoine Boesset -Una musiqua
23 | Luis deBriceño - Pasacalle: Que Tenga Yo a Mi Mujer
24 | CharlesTessier -J'aime la dizaine
25 | Anonyme - Allons vielle imperfaite
26 | EtienneMoulinié - Air à boire : Amis enivrons-nous...
27 | Pierre Guédron - Si tu veux apprendre les pas à danser
28 | Luis deBriceño - Danza de la Hacha
29 | Luis deBriceño - Seguidilla: Dime Que Te Quexas
30 | Pierre Guédron - Dessus la rive de la mer, ya trois belles filles
31 | Didier Le Blanc - Les mariniers adorent un beau jour
32 | Anonyme - La gran chacona
33 | CharlesTessier - Chansons turcquesques: Hel vel Aqueur & Tal lissi man

III. Ballet Royale de la Nuit  (Ensemble Correspondances/Sébastien Daucé). Harmonia Mundi CD HMM 902603.06

Following an initial reconstruction on disc in 2015, Charpentier’s Ballet Royal de la Nuit enjoyed a triumphant modern premiere at the Théâtre de Caen in November 2017. That staged version, presented in this outstanding box set, at last includes the entire musical score with twenty-seven additional dances. The meticulous reconstitution by Sébastien Daucé, incomparable poetry of Francesca Lattuada and dreamlike universe created by Olivier Charpentier's costuming combine to produce an incredible enchantment - further enhanced by virtuoso jugglers and circus artists that can be enjoyed on the bonus DVD. This ballet is a masterly achievement from every point of view, and the spell remains unbroken from first note to last.
The famous Ballet royal de la Nuit, danced by His Majesty Louis XIV at the age of fifteen, was performed on seven evenings early in 1653, in the Salle du Petit-Bourbon at the Louvre Palace. It enjoyed general success: the aristocracy, present in large numbers, the ambassadors of Europe, but also the bourgeois of the city of Paris acclaimed this great spectacle whose enchantments made a lasting impression.

To make a lasting impression: that was precisely the grand project of Mazarin, who had just returned to power after the disturbances of the Fronde rebellion. Commissioned by the cardinal in person, this ballet project had been conceived at the highest levels of state as a promotional tool for royal power: the intention was to impose respect on the high- ranking personages of the kingdom, to impress the Parisians who were present, and to disseminate this message elsewhere in the world through the intermediary of the foreign representations.

If today’s historians are in agreement that the Ballet de la Nuit was one of the key spectacles of Louis XIV’s reign, that is because it was influential in numerous respects: political, institutional, aesthetic and musical. For the first time in the history of the genre, the libretto is unified and skilfully laid out in four veilles (the watches of the night) and a concluding grand ballet; all the levels of interpretation and all the arts move towards a single goal: the rising of the Sun.

For this purpose, Mazarin, asked the highest and most reknown artists in the kingdom and in Italy to compose this ode to the young king. The poetry that accompanied the royal ballet was by the illustrious Isaac de Benserade, who already had a high reputation as a writer in 1653, and who was to excel in both the ballet de cour genre and the précieux register. Deploying the widest possible range of learning and invention in his verse, playing by turns on the whimsical, the serious, the comic and the burlesque, Benserade calls on references from mythology, romance and contemporary life.

It is often difficult to establish the names of the composers who wrote the music for the ballets de cour of the early years of Louis XIV’s reign. For the Ballet royal de la Nuit, we can only be sure of the identity of one of them, namely Jean de Cambefort (c.1605-61), who furnished the vocal récits and airs that open each of the four veilles. Many other composers surely took part in it.

Texts : Isaac de Benserade (1613-1691)
Music by Jean de Cambefort (c.1605-1661), Antoine Boësset (1587-1643), Louis Constantin (1697-1779), Michel Lambert (1610-1696)
Extracts from Francesco Cavalli’s L’Ercole amante (1602-1676) and Luigi Rossi’s Orfeo (1597-1653)
Musical reconsitution by Sébastien Daucé

Composer Info

Henri Le Bailly , Etienne Moulinié (1599-1676), Jean de Cambefort (c.1605-1661), Antoine Boësset (1587-1643), Louis Constantin (1697-1779), Michel Lambert (1610-1696), Francesco Cavalli (1602-1676), Luigi Rossi (1597-1653)  Jean Boyer, Antoine Boesset (1587-1643), Pierre Guédron (1565-1620), Fabrice-Marin Caietain, Girard de Beaulieu, Adrian LeRoy, Charles Tessier, Didier Le Blanc, Guillaume Costeley, Luis de Briceño, Isaac de Benserade (1613-1691) 

CD Info

Zephyrus CD ZF002, Alpha CD 462, Harmonia Mundi CD HMM 902603.06