Wednesday 23 May 2018

Interesting programmes, strange timing - homages to Lully and Louis Couperin

Lucile Richardot
Lucile Richardot
Un hommage à Lully / Un hommage à Louis Couperin; Lucile Richardot, Thibault Roussel, Mathilde Vialle, Duo Coloquintes; London Festival of Baroque Music at St John's Smith Square
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 13 Mar 2018 Star rating: 4.0 (Lully) / 3.5 (Couperin) (★★★★ / ★★★½)
A pair of intimate concerts paying homage to two major French baroque figures

On Wednesday 16 May 2018, the London Festival of Baroque Music presented a pair of intimate concerts paying homage to two of the greatest French Baroque Composers. First Lucile Richardot (mezzo-soprano), Thibault Roussel (theorbo & guitar) and Mathilde Vialle (bass viol) presented Un hommage à Lully and then for the late-evening concert, Duo Coloquintes (Alice Julien-Laferrière - violin, Mathilde Vialle - viola da gamba) presented Un hommage à Louis Couperin.

Un hommage à Lully

It seems that everywhere we look these days we see evidence of the contribution of immigrants to a country’s economic and cultural hegemony. Seventeenth-century France was no different. Louis XII and Louis XIV owed their power to an Italian, Cardinal Mazarin (born Mazzarino) who headhunted his compatriot Giovanni Battista Lulli amongst others to ensure the Versailles court had the best in music as well as everything else.

Jean-Baptiste Lully – as he Gallicised himself – arrived in Paris at the age of 14 and the received wisdom is that he had not had much by way of formal musical training in his native Florence, that his Italian-ness was an appeal to the nostalgia of his employer, Mazarin.

Lucile Richardot’s programme certainly had an Italian accent, starting with Barbara Strozzi’s lament ‘Lagrime mie’, and with Lully’s ‘Femme désolée’ – Italian lament – as its centrepiece. Lully’s collaborations with Molière, as demonstrated in his pastiche melodramatic song of the music master’s pupil from Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, took the commedia dell’arte idiom to the French court. Richardot took great delight in camping up the text of ‘Je languis nuit et jour’ (I languish night and day). His vengeful Armide, who steps back from murdering Renaud, had a similar unhinged style, though in tragic mode. It reinforces our notion of Lully as the who, in his bid to bring discipline to the court orchestra, got carried away beating time with a large stick and hit his foot, contracted gangrene and, rather than have the foot amputated and risk sacrificing his dancing, died in agony.

We also heard in this programme pieces from Lully’s Versailles colleagues, including his father-in-law Michel Lambert, and Marin Marais. The texts of all the pieces were wonderfully intemperate, and Richardot made the most of every word. The directness, the lack of vibrato and the flexible accompaniment from Thibault Roussel on theorbo and Mathilde Vialle on bass viol, gave her a sound like any number of folk singers of a 1960s and 70s vintage. Which of course brought into relief the professed sophistication and cerebral aspirations of Lully’s royal employers.

I for one was glad of the rare chance to hear this repertoire and also of the opportunity to reflect on how, to paraphrase Graham Sadler in his essay for the Festival booklet, a ‘Cultural Identity’ can be ‘Fabricated’ by importing talented foreigners.
Reviewed by Ruth Hansford

Lucile Richardot MEZZO-SOPRANO
Thibault Roussel THEORBO & GUITAR
Mathilde Vialle BASS VIOL

Barbara Strozzi ‘Lagrime mie, a che vi trattenete’ from Diporti di Euterpe: overo cantate & ariette a voce sola Op. 7
Michel Lambert ‘Rochers, vous êtes sourds’ from 9ème Livre d’airs de différents auteurs
Jean-Baptiste Lully ‘Je languis nuit et jour’ from Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme
Marin Marais Prélude No. 92 and Allemande in GMichel Lambert ‘Airs’ from Ombre de mon Amant - Vos mespris chaque jour
Jacques Du Buisson ‘Plainte sur la mort de Monsieur Lambert’ from 9ème Livre d’Airs sérieux et à boire
Jean-Baptiste Lully ‘Espoir si cher et si doux’ from Atys - Songes d’Atys (transcription by Robert de Visée for solo theorbo)
Honoré D’Ambruys ‘Le doux silence de nos bois’ from Livre d’airs du sieur d’Ambruis
Jean-Baptiste Lully ‘Plainte italienne’ from Psyché
Sébastien Le Camus ‘Laissez durer la nuit’ from Airs à deux et trois parties de feu M. Le Camus
Marin Marais Tombeau de Lully
Jean-Baptiste Lully ‘Enfin, il est en ma puissance’ from Armide

Un hommage à Louis Couperin

Duo Coloquintes (Photo Diego Salamanca)
Duo Coloquintes (Photo Diego Salamanca)
The second concert of the evening started at 9.45pm. This is not unusual for anyone who goes to Late Night Proms or other similar gigs in London. But the difference here was that we had to hang around for an hour and a quarter in a venue with no bar and in a neighbourhood with only ridiculously fancy restaurants or pubs bursting at the seams with noisy and drunk young men. And then find a route through them at the end of the concert.

Sadly, but unsurprisingly, the audience was small. The duo played beautifully, a gently flowing, intimate, soft-grained sound. A good deal of research was in evidence. Couperin made his name as a harpsichordist and organist but was a talented violinist and violist, and much of the programme consisted of transcriptions. I was intrigued to read that one of the pieces was from the ‘Oldham manuscript’ but was let down to hear that it was not discovered in the town of Oldham but in the attic of a Mr Oldham.

It was a shame that a rare outing of this gorgeous repertoire was timed to put a much larger potential audience off coming to explore it. If this had been a rush-hour concert before the Lully, it would have been much better attended (even if intimacy had been lost in the traffic noise outside).
Reviewed by Ruth Hansford

Duo Coloquintes
Alice Julien-Laferrière VIOLIN
Mathilde Vialle VIOLA DA GAMBA

La Couperin
La Pastourelle
La Dubuisson
La Chambonnières

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