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La Rêveuse
CD 1: Purcell – Cease, anxious World
CD 2: Sébastien de Brossard – Oratorios & Leandro
CD 3: Henry Lawes – Ayres
rec. 2007-11
MIRARE MIR295 [59:55 + 66:27 + 69:12]

The three CDs which constitute this set have been released individually before, but they neatly bring together here in one place an exploration of 17th century vocal music. In the case of the Lawes and de Brossard compilations they also bring to attention some little-known repertoire. That is not so much the case with the Purcell recital which features a number of famous songs from his stage works and odes, some gathered together in the set Orpheus Britannicus which first appeared shortly after the composer’s death.

Julie Hassler’s singing in the Purcell is generally soft and lyrical, bringing these theatrical works within a more intimate, domestic setting. Paradoxically, though, the resonant acoustic of the protestant church of Lourmarin in Provence, evokes a more spacious context. In neither respect does this restrict her performances, where she cultivates a range of colours and timbres to bring out Purcell’s consistently vivid setting of the words, confirming the extraordinary range and fertility of that composer’s music. Hassler shifts between soft lyricism in ‘Cease, anxious World’, a more operatic declamation for ‘Soft Notes, and gently rais’d’, an almost coquettish cooing in ‘A Prince of Glorious Race’, and a well-rounded vibrato and folk-like demeanour for ‘When first Amintas su’d’. Arguably there are times when she sounds a little too refined for some of the very down-to-earth music, but that is a minor quibble.

The instrumental fillers are crisply executed, especially the items for solo harpsichord. There is a richness of sound (despite the small number of performers) in Godfrey Finger’s Sonata op. 1,3, whilst Purcell’s Sonata Z780 is brilliantly realised afresh from its ground bass which seems only to be preserved in an inauthentic full realisation from a 19th century edition, rather than any earlier manuscript.

Moving back in time, the disc devoted to the songs of Henry Lawes will be a revelation to those not already familiar with this composer who was the brother of William, the better-known composer of consort music. This recital mines Lawes’s collection Ayres and Dialogues of 1653. Some of the songs recall the late Elizabethan and early Jacobean world of John Dowland’s settings, especially a melancholy number such as ‘I rise and grieve’. Others show a more cavalier swagger (‘Have you e’er seen the morning sun?’ and ‘Or you, or I, nature did wrong’ for example), and the tenor Jeffrey Thompson clearly relishes the vocal and melodic twists and turns of these songs.

Sometimes his characterisations are more than purely musical, with sighs and groans, or an ebullient overflowing of joy that is barely controlled, but these are a calculated part of his interpretations. Certainly this often seems a more theatrical experience than Hassler’s Purcell recital. Again there are some lively instrumental interludes, most notably the increasingly fast divisions played by the bass viol in Daniel Norcombe’s ‘Tregian’s ground’, sometimes flitting amiably along, at other times more furious.

The third disc also rescues some rarities from oblivion, this time from across the Channel. Sébastien de Brossard has rather languished in the shadow of his contemporaries such as Charpentier and de Lalande, possibly because his closer study of German and Italian models led him to develop a style that is less identifiably and idiomatically French than those others composers’. The two oratorios are far smaller in scale than one might expect if one comes at these in the light of knowledge only of Handel’s dramatic oratorios and later specimens. They are however a reminder that the form was originally more like an allegorical cantata, a forum to carry quite abstract theological or moral themes; in this case reflecting upon the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary, and the experience of a penitential soul respectively.

For all the abstraction of their content, La Rêveuse bring these works to expressive musical life. The instrumentalists set the tone for the Oratorio on the Immaculate Conception with a warmly meditative reading of the opening Sonatina, and a similarly spiritual atmosphere in the prelude to the Dialogue. Jeffrey Thompson appears again on this disc as God in the latter composition, sounding a note of tenderness rather than stern authority. In the other Oratorio the soloists are well contrasted, though Isabelle Druet as Virtus is a little disappointing on account of her nearly wailing and approximate tone. However, the rough reediness of Benoît Arnould as Adam, and his colleagues as the unredeemed ancestors, suitably exemplify their spiritual misery.

Druet is more lucid in the little dramatic cantata Leandro, retelling (in Italian) the tragic story of Hero and Leander. Thompson takes on the role of a haute-contre here with lustrous results. As a filler, the instrumentalists of La Rêveuse perform de Brossard’s second Sonata, effecting a bracing contrast between the sections, which include the striking evocation by the strings of a brass fanfare.

Together, then, this trio of discs bears eloquent testimony to the art of La Rêveuse, a tightly-knit group of musicians whose stylish playing, enthusiasm, and keen ability in interacting with each other cast as sympathetic light upon the repertoire they perform as is likely to be found.

Curtis Rogers [CRo]

CD 1: Purcell – Cease, anxious World
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
Cease, anxious World [2:51]
A new Irish tune, Z.646 [2:06]
Soft Notes, and gently rais’d [6:05]
A New Ground, Z.T682 [2:37]
Amidst the Shades [3:18]
A Prince [1:37]
When first Amintas su’d for a Kiss [3:26]
Here the Deities approve [3:20]
Prelude [1:11]
Trio Sonata, Z.780 [7:49]
Sweeter than Roses [3:06]
Ground, Z.D221 [2:59]
Music for a while [3:28]
Dear pretty Youth [1:47]
Godfrey FINGER (1660-c.1730)
Sonata terza, op.1,3 [5:44]
O let me weep [8:11]
La Rêveuse (Julie Hassler (soprano), Stéphan Dudermel (violin), Florence Bolton (viola da gamba), Angélique Mauillon (triple harp), Bertrand Cuiller (harpsichord, organ), Benjamin Perrot (theorbo, director))
rec. February 2007, Lourmarin Protestant church, France
Previously released as MIR033
CD 2: Sébastien de Brossard – Oratorios & Leandro
Sébastien de BROSSARD (1655-1730)
Oratorio sopra L’Immaculata Conceptione della B. Virgine, SDB.56 [24:11]
Sonata Seconda in C major, SDB.224 [4:57]
Leandro, SDB.77 [19:55]
Dialogus Pœnitentis Animae Cum Deo, SDB.55 [15:14]
La Rêveuse (Chantal Santon Jeffrey & Eugénie Warnier (sopranos), Isabelle Druet (alto), Jeffrey Thompson (haute-contre & tenor), Vincent Bouchot (tenor), Benoît Arnould (bass), Stéphan Dudermel & Benjamin Chénier (violins), Florence Bolton (viola da gamba), Emmanuel Mandrin (organ), Bertrand Cuiller (harpsichord), Benjamin Perrot (theorbo, director))
rec. 28 June – 1 July 2010, Eglise du Bon Secours, Paris
Previously released as MIR125
CD 3: Henry Lawes – Ayres
Henry LAWES (1595-1662)
Have you e’er seen the morning sun? [1:44]
Slide soft you silver floods [3:48]
Bid me but live, and I will live [2:18]
Francis WITHY (c.1645-1727)
Divisions on a ground [5:31]
Daniel BACHELOR (1572-1619)
Prelude [1:50]
I rise and grieve [6:40]
Or you, or I, nature did wrong [2:09]
Nicholas LANIER (1588-1666)
Neither sighs, nor tears, nor mourning [1:37]
William LAWES (1602-1645)
Almain/Courant 1/Corant 2 (arr. for harpsichord and lute) [4:03]
Whither are all her false oaths blown? [3:02]
William LAWES
I’m sick of love [3:05]
Nicholas LANIER
No more shall meads be deck’d with flowers [5:02]
Daniel NORCOMBE (c.1576-1655)
Tregian’s ground [4:49]
When thou, poor excommunicate [3:11]
Sleep soft, you cold clay cinders [3:39]
Out upon it, I have lov’d [1:20]
Jacques GAULTIER (c.1600-c.1652)
Courant [1:30]
Cloches de Mr Gaultier [1:48]
Sweet stay awhile, why do you rise? [3:16]
O tell me love! O tell me fate! [2:05]
Christopher SIMPSON (1602/1606?-1669)
Division on John come kiss me now [2:04]
Wert thou yet fairer than thou art [2:35]
William LAWES
Why so pale and wan, fond lover? [2:08]
La Rêveuse (Jeffrey Thompson (tenor), Florence Bolton (viola da gamba), Bertrand Cuiller (harpsichord), Benjamin Perrot (lute, theorbo & baroque guitar))
rec. December 2011, Amilly church, Loiret, France
Previously released as MIR177



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