France, as elsewhere, there was a tension during the Baroque
period - and not only then - between, on the one hand, a desire
to encourage a distinctive national style and, on the other,
to react to, and even to welcome, foreign presences and influences
in the form both of performers/composers and ideas. At different
times one or other of these impulses held sway, though neither
ever quite disappeared. In the period to which this present
disc is devoted, there was a considerable openness to foreign
IV, king from 1589 to 1610, encouraged a more tolerant and varied
cultural life than most of his predecessors; Cardinal Mazarin
(himself Italian born), when minister of France from 1642 used
his power and wealth to bring many Italian musicians – including
at least three of the composers represented on this disc, Bartolotti,
Corbetta and Rossi – to France. Other, sometimes more popular
musical, influences included the dances of Spain, which became intermittently very fashionable.
recordings by Private Musicke, under their director Pierre Pizl,
have seen them performing music by Italian composers, such as
Frescobaldi and Marini; by Spanish composers such as José Marin
and Juan Hidalgo, as well as work by such French luminaries
as Marais and Forqueray. They are, in short, well suited to
explore the ‘international’ repertoire to be heard in Paris in the first half
of the Seventeenth Century. In undertaking such an exploration
they are joined by the excellent and experienced tenor Stephan
programme is very well devised and delightfully various, mixing
vocal and instrumental items and varying the instrumentation
from track to track in a way that ensures that mind and ear
alike are constantly stimulated and enticed.
of the composers here are rather obscure figures. Nothing seems
to be known, for example, of Luis de Briceno, save that in 1626
a collection of his compositions, containing some sixty pieces,
both songs and music for guitar, was published in Paris. Yet the piece played here – Carvanda Ciacona – is a quite
splendid confection, nimbly played by three guitars and the
colascione (a relation of the long-necked lute). It is the kind
of infectious piece which has one tapping one’s foot irresistibly.
It is typical of the careful programming of this CD that it
should be succeeded by a very different mood, created by the
elegantly dignified Symphonie of the far better-known Louis
Couperin, played by a trio of violas da gamba.
guitarist-composer Angelo Michele Bartolotti seems to have been
one of the many Italian musicians of the period who travelled
Europe from one patron to another. His early compositions were published
in Florence; he turned up later at the Swedish court and at Innsbruck; he came to the
French court at the invitation (instruction?) of Mazarin, working
in both royal chapel and theatre as guitarist and player of
the theorbo. The three pieces by him, played by Pierre Pitzl
on a 5-course guitar are subtle and intriguing. The Prélude
seems to register his awareness of French practices, and a willingness
to accommodate himself to them, being in the stile brisé,
while his Courant and Canarie are less obviously French in manner.
Foscarini’s Folia and Zarabanda detta la favorita are striking
pieces, especially Folia, a sophisticated piece which yet goes
some way towards explaining why Foscarini was sometimes known
as “il Furioso”.
the native French composers, Guédron is a figure of some substance,
both singer and composer of airs and ballets de cour.
Has there yet been a full CD devoted to his airs? If so, I have
missed it – and the quality of his three contributions here
is clear evidence that his work would reward more extensive
exposure. The work of Michel Lambert has perhaps benefited from
a wider appreciation – as, for example, in René Jacobs collection
of Airs de Cour on Harmonia Mundi HMX 2901061.
short, this is an enterprising, informative and – most importantly
– richly enjoyable anthology (not limited to the Love Songs of
its subtitle), well played and sung and recorded in a vivid, but
not over bright, sound. All with an interest in the music of the
early baroque will surely find it of enduring interest.