Gerard Lesne has led a unique career: largely self-taught, he began as a jazz and rock singer who not only converted to more serious music, but became identified as one of the leading countertenors in the early music genre. He has sung with several early music ensembles, including the Clemencic Consort and with the group he founded, Il Seminario Musicale. The sound quality of Lesne's voice has been described as the male counterpart to the femaleRead more contralto. His admirers will define him further, noting the many subtle gradations of volume and the nuances and color he is capable of imparting to an otherwise earthbound phrase. Many listeners, critics included, have asserted he is the finest French countertenor of his time. Lesne has made numerous recordings for a variety of labels, including EMI, Harmonia Mundi, Virgin Classics, and Accord.
Lesne was born in Montmorency, France, on July 15, 1956. He had little formal training in his early years, though he did study music for a time at the Sorbonne. Until 1979, when he was 23, Lesne performed as a jazz and rock singer. At that time Belgian tenor Zeger Vandersteene became impressed with Lesne's vocal talents and introduced him to composer/conductor René Clemencic, founder and leader of early music ensemble the Clemencic Consort. Clemencic was immediately won over by the 23-year-old countertenor.
From 1979 Lesne began singing with the Consort, touring Europe usually to enthusiastic critical and audience response. From 1984 to 1990 he sang with Les Arts Florissants under William Christie, delving mainly into French Baroque repertory. In 1985 Lesne founded Il Seminario Musicale and explored Italian Baroque music (A. Scarlatti, Vivaldi, Stradella, and others) and made many recordings.
From 1988 to 1992 Lesne sang with Philippe Herreweghe and his ensembles (La Chapelle Royale and Collegium Vocale Gent). In 1990 he made two acclaimed recordings of J.S. Bach sacred works with Herreweghe that appeared on the Harmonia Mundi label.
Since 1993 Lesne has given vocal classes at the Royaumont Abbey in France, and throughout the 1990s and into the new century remained active on the concert scene, particularly with Il Seminario Musicale. Among the group's recordings is a 2005 five-CD set of French sacred music on Virgin Classics. Lesne's freelance recording activity includes the 2006 Harmonia Mundi issue Messe de Noël with conductor Marcel Pérès. Read less