COMPOSERS: Le Jeune
WORKS: Muze honorons; Louë tous ce Dieu; Quand pour Egipte
PERFORMER: Claire Lefilliâtre (soprano), Damien Guillon, Bruno Le Levreur (countertenor), Jean-François Lombard (tenor), Bernard Arrieta (bass); Les Pages et les Chantres de la Chapelle de Versailles/Olivier Schneebeli
CATALOGUE NO: 032
This is something of a schizophrenic disc – and in more ways than one. First, there is the combination of Catholic and Protestant music, the former in Latin, the latter in French. Claude Le Jeune wrote these pieces at the French court during the turbulent religious struggles of the late 16th century. Second, several of the texts are by Jean-Antoine Baïf, who was more interested in resurrecting ancient poetic metres (with their mix of long and short vowels) than conveying religious emotion; it is difficult to prevent this feature having a slightly odd effect on the performances, as in the monotonous, lilting nonchalance of ‘Louë tous ce Dieu’. Third, the performing forces combine some professional musicians with less accomplished adults and children.
The ensemble is at its best in the French-texted works, with their simple melodic lines or chordal repetitions – ‘Quand pour Egipte’ is very nicely done. Less successful are the Latin pieces: the Magnificat, for example, suffers from poor tuning and balance, and the subtle phrases are reduced to a lot of amorphous gliding about. Even so, many will enjoy the enthusiasm of these performances, especially, perhaps, that of ‘Muze honorons’, which booms with added percussion and drips with ornamentation. Anthony Pryer