Une Douceur violente
Jacques DE GALLOT (c.1625-c.1690)
Pieces in a minor [20:21]
Pierre GALLOT (c.1660-after 1715)
Pieces in g minor [6:27]
Charles MOUTON (1617-c.1699)
Pieces in C [9:47]
Pieces in f minor and C [14:04]
Charles MOUTON
Pieces in a minor [12:27]
Les Plaintes de Psyché [4:58]
Anthony Bailes (lute)
rec. June 2010, Church of St Apollinaire, Bolland, Belgium. DDD
RAMÉE RAM 1104 [68:05]

The booklet of this disc includes a painting of Charles Mouton who looks like an aristocrat and "exudes an aura of self-assured ease", as Anthony Bailes writes in his liner-notes. This painting is a good expression of the position of lutenists in France in the 17th century. The lute was one of the most respected instruments and their players were at the top of the musical pyramid, so to speak. Music for the lute also has strong aristocratic traits. In the first half of the 17th century the members of the Gaultier (or Gautier) family had set the standard. Composers of later generations had to measure up to them. 
Bailes explains why the music of this period often has a rather restrained character. He refers to the Burwell lute tutor from c1670 which documents lute playing in the style of the Gaultiers. Here it is characterised as "mediocrity", which, according to Bailes, should be interpreted as "moderation, in the sense of avoiding extremes. Deriving from the dictates of conformism and controlled ritual so typical of French culture under Louis XIV, Mouton's music adheres very much to these doctrines, exhibiting neither violent harmonic surprise nor tasteless shows of virtuosity". This same restraint often makes it hard for modern audiences readily to appreciate French music.
The programme of this disc juxtaposes Mouton's music to the oeuvre of the two Gallots. Jacques de Gallot, although of the same generation as Mouton, is quite different. He also wrote for three voices and includes more ornamentation. Harmonically his music is much more adventurous than Mouton's. Bailes explaines this with the Pieces in a minor which open the disc. This suite includes some remarkable effects which were quite unusual at the time. There are striking contrasts between the various movements, for instance the introverted sarabande La Pièce de huit heures which is followed by the sparkling canarie Les Castagnettes. Gallot's compositional style particularly appealed to non-French players. Bailes mentions here the famous German Bohemian-born lute player and composer Silvius Leopold Weiss. Gallot therefore can be considered an important link between the French and German lute schools.
Towards the end of the 17th century the position of the lute was undermined, especially due to the growing popularity of the guitar. This also had its effects on the writing of lute music. Composers started to arrange operatic pieces for the lute, especially from Lully's operas. Bailes quotes again the Burwell lute tutor which states that "it is a disgrace for the lute to play country tunes, songs or corants of violins" and "to make people dance to the lute is improper". The popularity of Lully's operas was such, though, that lute composers had to give in to modern fashion, and this explains that the Pieces in C by Mouton include three transcriptions of fragments from Lully operas. The Pieces in g minor by Pierre Gallot, Jacques' nephew, consist entirely of Lully transcriptions, except the opening prelude.
With the confrontation of music by Charles Mouton on the one hand and the two Gallots on the other Anthony Bailes has created a most compelling programme. It shows the pinnacle of the lute repertoire in the second half of the 17th century and limns the stylistic changes that in the end would lead to the lute's demise. It is a worthy sequel to Bailes' previous disc at the same label, devoted to the Gaultier family ("Apollon Orateur"; RAM 0904). Bailes' interpretation is also restrained and has something aristocratic about it. His playing is extremely transparent which makes all the voices clearly audible. The Burwell lute tutor states: "[On] other instruments we sing, but on the lute we speak". That is exactly what Bailes does, and in a very eloquent manner.
Johan van Veen

A compelling programme of lute music.