It has been far too easy in the past to see French chanson composers in the second half of the sixteenth century as lesser figures—too restrained in their mode of expression, faint epigones of their predecessors (particularly Claudin de Sermisy and Clement Janequin), less inventive and resourceful than the great Italian madrigalists who were their contemporaries. Apart from the terrifyingly prolific Philippe de Monte, the composers on this disc hardly merit a mention in most histories of music.
But in fact they just needed performing with the kind of skill and refinement we now hear from the Clement Janequin Ensemble. This is a group, as I have said before, that is unchallenged when it hits form. And here they are at theirRead more very best. It is not just that everything is perfectly in place, that many years of experience have blended them into an ensemble of wonderful flexibility. It is also that they manage to find the mood of each piece with miraculous precision. Certainly the music is a little restrained—though `refined' would be the better word. On the page, these pieces can look remarkably similar. But every time the Janequins put their finger on the songs' individuality. Just once they let everything rip, in Regnard's Bois Janin a moi; but otherwise within a fairly restricted palette they ring all the changes with massive skill.
Not that there is anything effete about their singing. They have an outward and vibrant sound, sometimes helped by the forthcoming lute playing of Eric Bellocq. That directness may be part of Gramophone February 1995 93 their success in bringing this little-heard music (which is to say that there is not a note here that I had heard before) to vivid and irresistible reality.
I should mention that, while Jeanice Brooks's informative note is translated, Ronsard's glorious poems are not. That hardly seems a serious problem, since it is the actual words that count, their juxtaposition, their resonance; the content is usually clear enough from the singing. Briefly, this is a wonderful and important issue: don't miss it.
-- Gramophone [2/1995] reviewing the original release of this title, HM 901491 Read less
Works on This Recording
Chansons (50): Ni nuit ne jourby François Regnard Conductor:
Clément Janequin Ensemble
Period: Renaissance Written: by 1575; France