WORKS: O Solitude: songs,
PERFORMER: Gérard Lesne (countertenor); Il Seminario Musicale
CATALOGUE NO: E 8882
This collection ranges from breezy, strophic songs dating from Purcell’s early years to fervent laments on the subject of death, all interspersed with short instrumental pieces.
Gérard Lesne has a distinctive, seductive voice, characterised by a rare effortlessness and pliancy. He is a subtly persuasive artist, drawing the listener into an intimate, understated sound-world in which the music is allowed to speak for itself. Lesne and his continuo players imbue these songs with the sensuous fluidity of French Baroque music, making their approach quite unlike that of the many British artists who have recorded this repertoire, among them Alfred Deller, James Bowman, Michael Chance and Emma Kirkby. Sensuous they may be, but these accounts are not overly romanticised or self-indulgent: ‘An Evening Hymn’, for instance – often sung as an elegiac meditation on death – is here given a radiant dancelike quality.
Inevitably there are some idiosyncrasies in Lesne’s pronunciation of English: at times it is hard to make out the words and the very colour of these songs is curiously transformed by his accent. But ultimately the intuitive musicianship and sincerity of these performances speak volumes. Kate Bolton