The verses of Pierre de Ronsard (1524–85), the leading French poet of the 16th century, were set to music by a great many composers in France and the Low Countries during his lifetime. Though he lived only 61 years, he was already old and sickly before his time, halfway through his life. At that point, he left the French court, and French composers lost interest in setting his poetry. But Flemish and Dutch composers continued their interest, and it is this latter group of songs that forms this collection. Only Lassus, Arcadelt, and Castro are represented by more than a single song, and the Lassus selections are mostly familiar (“Bon jour mon coeur” of Lassus is sung twice). Four of the poems are credited in the text pages to other poets, aRead more point not explained in the notes. Worth noting is “Ma petite columbelle” of Marc-Antoine Muret (1526–1585), the only Frenchman on the disc, included because this was the first setting of a Ronsard poem to be published. He is not otherwise known as a composer but as a writer and friend of the poet.
The members of the quartet are drawn from Ton Koopman’s choir and concentrate their attention on music of the Low Countries. The sound is pleasant, well balanced. The men of the quartet are joined by soprano Maria Luz Alvarez. The producer might have suggested a more generous selection, for there are more where these came from. Two older collections of songs to Ronsard’s texts on Supraphon and Harmonia Mundi scarcely duplicated any of these songs.
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