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Recordings

Harmonia Mundi HAF8905306 [CD]
08 Jan 2019

Si vous vouliez un jour – William Christie: Airs Sérieux et à boire vol 2

"Si vous vouliez un jour..." Volume 2 of the series Airs Sérieux et à boire, with Sir William Christie and Les Arts Florissants, from Harmonia Mundi, following on from the highly acclaimed "Bien que l'amour" Volume 1. Recorded live at the Philharmonie de Paris in April 2016, this new release is as vivacious and enchanting as the first.

'Si vous vouliez un jour': Airs Sérieux et à boire vol 2

William Christie, Les Arts Florissantes

Harmonia Mundi HAF8905306 [CD]

$16.99  Click to buy

"Si vous vouliez un jour..." brings together airs de cour by Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Étienne Moulinié, Michel Lambert and Sébastien Le Camus, "Having displaced the polyphony of the Renaissance chanson in the musical landscape of the day, the air de cour, with its clear melodic lines, simple form, and expressive possibilities, soon became an indispensable component of aristocratic entertainment and served as a musical platform for much of the poetry of the day, which ranged from courtly songs (air galant) covering the gamut of amorous states, to air de ballet (often framed as formal expressions of praise), by way of drinking songs (air à boire), devotional songs (air spirituel), and so on." writes Thomas Leconte in his programme notes. The air de cour thus contributed to the rise of a sophisticated socio-literary culture which prized the musical equivalent of the art of conversation (bien dire), seen at its apogée during the reign of Louis XIII. With its vivid expressiveness, the genre was an important link in the chain of events leading up to the creation of French-language opera,. "The first attempts at setting French plays integrally to music" he continues,"- be they of courtly or pastoral inspiration, such as Les Amours d’Apollon et Daphné by Charles Dassoucy (1650), Le Triomphe de l’Amour by Marin de La Guerre (1654), and La Pastorale d’Issy by Pierre Perrin (1659) - consisted chiefly of juxtaposing several airs, loosely connected together by what would, in the skilful hands of Lully, become the recitative".

This collection begins with the Petite pastorale H. 479 by Charpentier from around 1676, which is partly created by assembling pre-existing musical fragments, notably those taken from the prologue to Molière's Le Malade imaginaire (1673), interspersed with airs sérieux, and extended by instrumental ritornellos. In this Petite pastorale, Alcidon and Lysander, (Reinaud Van Mechelen and Cyril Auvity) joust by exquisite singing, accompanied by harpsichord (William Christie). Hardly the weapons of "real" shepherds ! Pan (Lisandro Abadie) - the god of merriment - unites them and they sing in unison "Laissez, laissez là sa gloire ! Ne songez qu’à ses plaisirs !" Also included in this collection are all five scenes from his pastoraletta Amor vince ogni cosa, H. 492 for five voices which shows the impact of Italian cantata.

Étienne Moulinié (1599-1676) was an early master of the courtly air, inheriting older traditions, as evidenced by two airs de boire, Amis, enivrons-nous du vin d'Espagne en France, a cheerful part song for male and female voices and Guillot est mon ami (1639) where polyphonic style is adapted for decidedly non-religious purposes. It ends with gleeful laughter, a nod to its folk song origins. Moulinié's Enfin la beauté que j'adore, (1624) is an air de cour reflecting troubadour style. By the mid 17th century, the genre developed in different directions. The air galant became more personal, morphing into the air sérieux, the art song of literary salons, where, as Leconte notes, "the art of conversation was practised according to the new codes of behaviour and courteousness which appealed both to the heart and the mind". The air sérieux favoured simple, strophic structure, almost ballad form, but much more refined and elegant : songs of love, longing and emotional poise. Vos mépris chaque jour me causent mille alarmes, by Michel Lambert (1610-1696) epitomises the style. A tender accompaniment (violins, viola da gamba and theorbo) cradles the singer, the counter tenor Cyril Auvity) who sings expressively but without excess. Sans murmurer from 1689, is a part song for three male voices, while Amour, je me suis plaint cent fois and J’aimerais mieux souffrir la mort also include the female singers Emmanuelle Negri and Anna Reinhold, demonstrating the flexibility of the form. Laissez durer la nuit, impatiente aurore, (Anna Reinhold) and Oh ! que vous êtes heureux (Emmanuelle Negri) are airs by Sébastien Le Camus (c. 1610-1677), proving that, in 17th century artistic circles, lighter female voices filled a worthy role.

Anne Ozorio

      

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