Ou l'Art d'Orner le 'Beau Chant'
Bertrand de BACILLY (1621-1690)
Le Printemps est de Retour [2:57]
Quand des Soupçons Jaloux [4:02]
Sortez, Petits Oiseaux, Sortez de ce Bocage [5:10]
J'ai Mille Fois Pensé dans ma Douce Langueur [4:45]
Qui Conte les Faveurs Mérite qu'on l'en Prive [4:14]
Mon Cher Troupeau, Cherchez la Plaine [2:36]
Je Vivais sans Aimer et ma Vie Inutile (attrib.) [2:47]
Je Brûle Jour et Nuit pour la Plus Volage (attrib.) [3:21]
Fleurs qui Naissez sous le Pas de Sylvie [2:53]
Que je vous Plains Tristes Soupirs (1669) [2:45]
Vous l'avez Entendu ce Soupir Tendre et Doux (1666) [3:35]
Nicolas HOTMAN (c.1610-1663)
Courante [3:17]
Chaconne [2:13]
François DUFAUT (?before 1604-c.1672)
Prélude [0:59]
Allemande [3:09]
Courante [1:59]
Louis COUPERIN (c.1626-1661)
Fantaisie de Violes [3:13]
M. de SAINTE COLOMBE (?c.1640-?c.1700)
Chaconne La Rougeville [6:24]
Ensemble A Deux Violes Esgales (Monique Zanetti (soprano); Jonathan Dunford (viola da gamba); Sylvia Abramowicz (viola da gamba, treble viol); Claire Antonini (Baroque lute); Thomas Dunford (archlute, theorbo); Paul Willenbrock (bass))
rec. Couvent des Dominicains, Paris, 25-28 October 2010. DDD

This lovely recital consists of a selection of songs by the Norman composer Bertrand de Bacilly, divided up by short instrumental pieces by some of his contemporaries. The "unedited airs" come from a recently unearthed manuscript of 161 secular songs of love and drinking in one to three parts, written between 1660 and 1680. All of the songs are anonymous, but according to the wordy but intelligent booklet notes, furnished by French Baroque specialist Thomas Leconte, careful analysis has revealed Bacilly to be the author of nearly all of them.
Bacilly - sometimes met with the incorrect first name 'Bénigne' - was in any case a prolific composer of songs, but also very much a renowned singer and pedagogue, vocal coach to the Great and the Good of his time. The title of this CD, 'l'Art d'Orner le 'Beau Chant'' (literally 'The Art of Embellishing 'Beautiful Singing'), is a reference to Bacilly's most famous work, not music but a 1668 treatise entitled 'Remarques Curieuses sur l'Art de Bien Chanter'. 

Some of the simple one- or two-verse texts are by contemporary poets, others by Bacilly himself, still others anonymous. The songs are all of the then-fashionable 'air sérieux' type - brief, gentle, gallant and strophic - but taken beyond the amateur level by the art of ornamentation, which had attained a high degree of sophistication by Bacilly's time. French soprano Monique Zanetti gives modern listeners a fine demonstration of how it would have been done by Bacilly and his equals, her ample technical ability enhanced by a subtlety of expression that beautifully communicates the meaning of every word and phrase in Bacilly's texts. Both Zanetti and Paul Willenbrock are tremendously experienced performers, veterans of leading ensembles like La Chapelle Royale and Les Arts Florissants, and of countless recordings. Willenbrock's bass voice is always in a supportive role in these items, but is still impressive, if in a necessarily more understated way. The France-based instrumentalists, led by Sylvia Abramowicz and Jonathan Dunford - who co-founded the underrated Ensemble à Deux Violes Esgales more than 25 years ago - are similarly well-travelled and their period skills add a compelling intimacy to the programme.
Sound quality is excellent, the atmospheric acoustic of the Dominican Convent in Paris giving the music a 'moist', delicate resonance, although there is occasionally a hint of artificial reverberation. The French-English booklet inside the digipak case is neat and informative, including longish biographies, photos of the performers - Zanetti in a rather grim pose, Thomas Dunford malevolent! - and song texts, the latter in both languages, with original rhyming patterns often skilfully preserved by translator Agnès Muller.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk
A fine demonstration of how it would have been done by Bacilly and his equals.