Notes and Editorial Reviews
Airs de cour.
Stephan van Dyck (dir/ten); Musica Favola
ACCENT 24234 (70:42)
Michel Lambert (1610–96) was once so highly regarded for his voice,
airs de cour
, and above all his teaching, that Lecerf de la Viéville wrote later with pardonable exaggeration, “There was no one in Paris, French or foreigner, who did
not wish to study with him, and he led the way for such a long time that he had a thousand excellent students.” Today, though, he is best known as the father-in-law of Lully, upon whom his ability to set French convincingly, in a manner that flowed somewhere between Italian recitative and aria, had a considerable effect. This charming disc combines “chamber trio” excerpts by Lully with several of Lambert’s airs.
The former are, if not well known, certainly familiar in style from Lully’s ballets. The latter remain largely unknown, and unfortunately so. Between two surviving publications of Lambert’s, as well as manuscripts, somewhat more than 300 airs exist. Many are in binary form, with elaborate introductions that reveal the influence of his son-in-law. Others use the rondeau form for its expressive reinforcement, as in “D’un Feu secret, je me sens consumer,” with its chromatic repeating theme. Though the subject is almost always the self-regarded pain of the poorly treated lover, occasionally Lambert surprises. “Ma Bergère est tender et fidèle,” for example, is a parody of the genre, in which the singer laments that his shepherdess’s love cannot possibly equal his, since she also loves her flock, crook, and dog, while he can only love her. The composer sets this as a serious chaconne—the most intense of tragic forms at the time, what with its unwavering minor key and restatements—to excellent effect.
The performances retain the intimacy of the originals by limiting themselves to no more than five instruments (two violins, viola da gamba, theorbo or guitar, harpsichord) and voice. Several selections drill down still further. “Doux Charme du printemps” and “Que faites-vous Silvie” feature voice, viola da gamba, and theorbo, while one minuet by Lully is performed as a harpsichord solo. Everything is done up stylishly, according to our best understanding of the period based on contemporary sources. Stephan van Dyck’s attractively clear, sweet lyric tenor and vivid manner lend themselves well to this music, and his agility in ornamentation (“Doux Charme du printemps,” in particular) never feels uncomfortably stretched. The presence of final consonants and the absence of nasal vowels might cause some raised eyebrows, as there’s no consensus on when these changes occurred to modern French, but these, too, are handled tastefully.
The sound quality is generally good, well balanced, and close. However, I find “Le Repos, l’ombre, le silence” one step too far in that direction, with van Dyck sounding as though the microphone were directly before his lips with the gain turned up, and an extra dollop of reverb added. It has the effect of turning his frequent, measured changes to volume into a manneristic affectation, but this fortunately is missing from all other cuts.
A pleasant album, this, expertly performed.
FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
Works on This Recording
Ombre de mon amant by Michel Lambert
Stephan Van Dyck
Written: 1689; France
Que faites-vous, Sylvie? by Michel Lambert
Stephan Van Dyck
Written: 16th Century
Doux charmes du printemps by Michel Lambert
Stephan Van Dyck
Written: 17th Century; France
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