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Poetical Humors
Les inAttendus
rec. 2017, La Courroie, Entraigues-sur-la-Sorgue, France
HARMONIA MUNDI HMM902610 [62:26]

Much is made of the seemingly incongruous combination of accordion and viola da gamba in this stunning recording, but as the sound hits you a little lightbulb goes off in your mind. Of course, a reed organ type of instrument plus strings – why not? The accordion in this case acts like a super-expressive harmonium, its overtone rich sound joining hands with the cello-like range of the viola da gamba, so that both can act as a melody instrument, harmonic support or bass line with equal effectiveness.

Marianne Muller (viola da gamba) and Vincent Lhermet (accordion) are interviewed for the booklet note, telling how they met both socially and musically at the International Summer Academy in Nice in 2015. Exploring repertoire, they soon found a kind of magic in the music of English composers from the 16th and 17th centuries, and there is some mixture of the ancient and the modern in this programme, with première recordings of pieces by Thierry Tidrow and Philippe Hersant adding piquancy to the Elizabethan pieces elsewhere.

There is a dolorous charm to much of the music here, and famous pieces such a Dowland’s Flow, my tears are given a gentle transparency through these arrangements. Contrast in this case comes from the more lively Can she excuse my wrongs, the accordion adding its strengths as a dancingly rhythmic powerhouse in proportion to the whole. Less familiar names such as Michael East and Tobias Hume brush up very well indeed in these performances, the echoes in the latter’s Touch me sweetely being very effective. The keyboard works of John Bull sound lovely on solo accordion, and the viola da gamba takes a solo in Tobias Hume’s Captain Hume’s Pavan, the melancholy voice of this instrument also taking up the dramatic poses in the music with poetic verve.

Thierry Tidrow’s Into Something Rich and Strange takes its atmosphere from Shakespeare’s ‘Full fathom five’ poem from The Tempest. High tones emerge from silence, and clustered dissonances and distorted melodic fragments illustrate the ‘magical and macabre’ in the text. Phillipe Hersant’s Lully Lullay grows out of a refrain heard in the Corpus Christi Carol, and as befits a cradle song, keeps up a gently rocking motion until ‘the wind starts to blow’ and things become shaken up with more virtuoso surprises and more emphatic variations on the theme. This is a tune that is now forever associated with Benjamin Britten, and the ethereal penultimate minutes with the gamba’s strumming come closest to that Britten ‘feel’, the concluding coda being almost a sea shanty.

This is a strikingly unusual recording and one which rattles around hauntingly in one’s consciousness long after being heard. The open cadence at the end of the CD in Dowland’s In darkness let me dwell is jaw-dropping indeed. If you love Elizabethan music and are intrigued by new sonorities then this is a field of rich pickings. There is plenty by which to be moved, and plenty to stimulate and tickle your intellect as well.

Dominy Clements

Tobias HUME (c. 1579-1645)
From: The First Part of Ayres, French, Pollish and others (1605)
What greater grief [2:15]
John DOWLAND (c. 1563-1626)
From: The Second Booke of Songs or Ayres (1600)
Shall I sue [4:20]
Orlando GIBBONS (1583-1625)
Galliard a 3 [1:21]
Michael EAST (c. 1580-1648)
And I as well as Thou [2:04]
Flow, my tears [4:35]
Can she excuse my wrongs [1:15]
Thierry TIDROW (b.1986)
Into something rich and strange [9:36]
John BULL (1562?-1628)
Goodnighte [3:41]
From: Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, 1899
Myself, K138 [2:54]
Tobias HUME
From: Captaine Humes Poeticall Musicke, 1607
Sweete Musicke [5:12]
From: The First Part of Ayres, French, Pollish and others, 1605
Touch me sweetely [2:00]
Fantasia [Dedicated to her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II] [5:18]
Tobias HUME
From: The First Part of Ayres, French, Pollish and others, 1605
Captain Humes Pavan [5:15]
Philippe HERSANT (b.1948)
Lully Lullay (2017) [8:12]
A Musical Banquet, 1610
In darkness let me dwell [4:19]


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