Music for Lady Louise
Songs and theatre music by Blow, Locke, Lully & Purcell
Eugénie Lefebvre (soprano), Clément Debieuvre (countertenor), Davy Cornillot (tenor), David Witczak (baritone); Ensemble Leviathan/Lucille Tessier
Harmonia Mundi HMN916119 61:17 mins
Lady Louise de Keroualle was the mistress of Charles II. She was sent to England when the King returned from France and given the task of keeping him under the influence of the Sun King, Louis XIV. With her came musicians who performed French and English theatrical music and airs suitable for Charles’s tastes. This release gives a fascinating glimpse into that world.
The pieces by Lully are performed very stylishly. The instrumental ‘Air pour les pêcheurs’ (from Alceste) could not be played in a more sprightly and captivating spirit, though perhaps a little over-sprayed with decoration – an approach matched in the dancing brilliance of the hornpipe from Purcell’s Bonduca. The singers bring a quiet depth to the lullaby ‘Dormons tous’ from Lully’s Atys(one of Charles II’s favourites), and a searing sense of horror to his vision of madness in ‘Ciel! Quelle vapeur m’environne’ from the same opera. Best in the section of mad songs here is the anonymous ‘Forth from the dark and dismal cell’, presented unaccompanied but with colourful drama by the bass David Witczak. Naturally in a French/English exchange there have to be songs mocking nationalities: the anonymous ‘De foolish English Nation’ is nicely sung with disdainful amusement by David Cornillot, and Akeroyde’s ‘A new song sung by a fop from France’ delivered with effete hauteur by Clément Debieuvre. Textures and tuning can be a little murky at times, but Lucile Tessier directs throughout with panache and insight.