Various: Chanson et romances de la France d’autrefois

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COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Alpha
ALBUM TITLE: Plaisir D’Amour
WORKS: Chanson et romances de la France d’autrefois
PERFORMER: Claire Lefilliatre, Brice Duisit, Isabelle DruetLe Poeme HarmoniqueVincent Dumestre
CATALOGUE NO: 513
This disc proves the point that

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folksong, because it exists in

no ‘authentic’ form, can best

be recaptured by an informed

inventiveness. The vagueness

of a song’s provenance or the

promiscuity of its early dissemination

unleash in this ensemble richly

diverse interpretative strategies.

Instrumentation from different

eras, languished delivery, a cappella

arrangements, frenzied accelerandos

and startling metamorphoses of

strophic tunes are among the means

by which Le Poème Harmonique

reimagines the past of these popular

tunes with energy and passion.

The ensemble reveals a command

of improvisation as it delightfully

recontextualises timeworn melodies.

Turning ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little

Star’ back into a lover’s lament

restores lost layers of meaning, and

makes us hear the tune as if for the

first time. This disc also rescues

French melodies both haunting

and bold from early anthologies,

animating lost songs with the

vocalists’ naive charm and the

players’ crisp interpolations.

The science of recording seems

however to play too large a role

in generating the atmosphere of

this recording. Sound engineering

leverages a generous acoustic into a

voluptuous aural surround in which

fundamentals sometimes overwhelm

the top line. Did the producers

think the material needed this help

to sustain listener interest? The

ensemble’s moving reconstructions

of these works say otherwise.

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Berta Joncus