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Les Amours de Mai - Love Songs in the Age of Ronsard
see end of review for track listing
Julianne Baird (soprano), Robert Mealy (violin), Parthenia: (Rosamund Morley (treble viol), Lawrence Lipnik (tenor viol), Beverly Au, Lisa Terry (bass viol))
Sung texts in French and English.
rec. May 2008, Miller Chapel, Princeton, USA.
MSR CLASSICS MS1304 [70:15]
Sound Samples

Experience Classicsonline


There are many later settings of the poetry of Pierre de Ronsard (1524-1585), by composers such as Milhaud, Roussel, Ravel, Poulenc and Saint-Saëns; French composers were perhaps no more likely to overlook Ronsard than English ones were to ignore Shakespeare. But there were also plenty of settings of Ronsard by his contemporaries and near-contemporaries, Clement Jannequin being an obvious example. It is worth noting that several composers devoted entire collections to Ronsard settings, such as Guillaume Boni (Sonetz de Pierre de Ronsard mis en musique à quatre parties,1576) andAnthoine de Bertrand (Les amours de P. de Ronsard, 1576, 1578).
 
What the present CD does is to interweave very pleasantly a selection of monophonic settings by Ronasard’s contemporaries with some of the viol (or viol-friendly) music of the same period. The result is a very satisfying programme, both pleasurable and instructive.
 
Ronsard himself uses extensive musical imagery in his work, and his ideas about poetry are often couched in terms of ‘singing’. There is no good evidence that her himself was a singer, though some evidence suggests that he had at least some basic competence on the guitar or viol, and perhaps on the lyre (he was given one by Jean Belot). The settings sung here by Julianne Baird include some by Claude Le Jeune a composer who collaborated with Ronsard’s friend and fellow poet and scholar, Jean-Antoine de Baïf (1532-1589) in the work of the Académie de Musique et de Poésie, established by Baïf with royal patronage in 1570. Although it lasted only a few years, the Académie was influentialin the circulation of ideas about ‘musiquemesuréeà l'antique,which argued for(and provided models of) a manner of setting verse in which the composer adhered faithfully to the metre of the poem, and set long (accented) syllables as minims and short (unaccented) syllables as crotchets. Le Jeune’s setting of ‘Revecy venir du printans’ is a persuasive example of the possibilities of the method, deployed sensitively, with its rhythms and phrasing fully alert to the nuances of Ronsard’s text.
 
Throughout, Julianne Baird sings with an idiomatic expressiveness; she characterises emotion and attitude sufficiently, without compromising the essentially neo-classical air of both texts and music. One particular pleasure is Jean de Castro’s ‘Ah! je meurs’, a delicate (more or less!) piece of bawdy, the opening beautifully phrased (and performed) to bring out the text’s erotic frisson and the setting’s hesitations and repetitions charmingly made to articulate the would-be temerity of Ronsard’s speaker which is yet rather marvellously united with a genuine air of lamentation. In ‘Mignonne, allons voir si la rose’ by Guillaume Costeley (who was a member of Baïf’s Académie) Baird and the accompanying strings negotiate Costeley’s complexities with admirable ease. What a fine setting this is!
 
The viols of Parthenia (occasionally supplemented by the violin of Robert Mealy) are exemplary accompanists and play with panache on their own featured pieces. Perhaps the ‘Five Fantasies on Une Jeune Filletteby Eustache Du Carroy are the most intriguing. The first two fantasies are in three parts, the third and fourth in four and the last in five. The sequence is a delightful study in what can be done with a simple folk tune by a composer gifted with both imagination and lightness of touch.
 
With a good well-balanced, recorded sound this is a rewarding exploration of some important but largely little-known repertoire (I don’t remember ever hearing any music by Pevernage before - he’s a name worth remembering for future reference). But beyond what it has to tell the listener about music history it also, more importantly, is a source of genuine pleasure.
 
Glyn Pursglove 

Track listing
Claude LE JEUNE (c.1530-1600)
Revecy venir du printans [2:28]
Villageoise de Gascogne [1:54]
Jean de CASTRO (c.1540-c.1600)
Ah! je meurs [1:45]
Guillaume COSTELEY (c.1530-1606)
Mignonne, allons voir si la rose [2:30]
François REGNARD (fl.1573-1579)
Petite nymfe folâtre [2:48]
Julio SEGNI (1498-1561)
Ricercar III [1:57]
Claude GOUDIMEL (c.1514-1572)
Errant par les champs de la grace [2:44]
ANONYMOUS
Pavane [1:27]
Basse danse [1:00]
Claude GOUDIMEL (c.1514-1572)
Quand j’apperçoy ton beau chef jaunissant [2:22]
Gabriel COSTE (fl.1538-1543)
Ricercar IV [1:01]
ANONYMOUS
Basse danse: Ta bonne grace [1:12]
Tourdion [0:28]
Giovanni BASSANO (c.1558-1617)
Divisions on Frais Et Gaillard [3:45]
André PEVERNAGE (1543-1591)
Ces deux yeux bruns / De ces deux yeux [3:19]
Quand je voy tout le monde rire [2:49]
Onques amour ne fut sans grand’ langueur [1:50]
Michael PRAETORIUS (1571-1621)
Suite of French Dances
Passameze [2:10]
Gaillarde [1:16]
Courante [1:58]
Pavane de Spaigne [2:47]
Voltes I, II And III [2:21]
ANONYMOUS
Ma belle si ton ame [2:57]
Eustache DU CAURROY (1549-1609)
Five Fantasies on Une Jeune Fillette [6:57]
Giovanni BASSANO (c.1558-1617)
Divisions on Susanne ung jour [4:35]
Claude LE JEUNE (c.1530-1600)
Fantasie à 4 [3:52]
Pierre BONNET (fl.1585-1600)
Mon père et ma mère [1:37]
Voulez vous donc tousjours, madame [2:11]
Françion vint l’autre jour [2:00]


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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