ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Airs de Cour
PERFORMER: Jean-Paul Fouchécourt (tenor), Olivier Baumont (harpsichord, organ), Eric Bellocq (lute, guitar, theorbo), Simon Heyerick, Nicolas Mazzoleni (violin), Christine Plubeau (viola da gamba)
CATALOGUE NO: 779 013-2
The air de cour flourished in France between the late 16th and early 18th centuries. Originally a popular form, usually for solo voice and lute, it blossomed into a kind of Baroque art song that showcased virtuoso solo singing, particularly in the elaborate, improvised ornamentation. Nevertheless, the air retained its primary emphasis on a clear, sensitive articulation of the poetic text, even when the introduction of continuo and violin accompaniment enlarged its musical possibilities.
Love in all its varieties was the air de cour’s subject, though the genre also encompassed the air à boire (drinking song) and, later, the air sérieux, such as Du Buisson’s ‘Plainte sur la mort de Monsieur Lambert’. Michel Lambert (1610-96), the most celebrated composer of airs de cour, certainly provides many of this disc’s highlights, either in his own songs, such as the gorgeously melodic ‘Vos mespris’, or in the homages he inspired from Du Buisson and Lully (his son-in-law). Other outstanding contributors include Moulinié, Richard, De La Barre and François Couperin, with the achingly tender ‘Zéphire’.
Jean-Paul Fouchécourt, a mellifluous tenor and haute-contre (high tenor), is a specialist in French song. He sings these airs superbly, with impeccable clarity and taste. A treat. Graham Lock