Claude LE JEUNE (c.1530-1600)
Autant en emporte le vent
Tout ce qui est plus beau [7.43]; Un puce j’ay dedans l’oreille [3.18]; Perdre rien [2.47]; Je file quand on me donne de quoy [1.55]; Monsieur l’Abbé [1.58]; Quand vous seriés quelque fille [3.07]; L’aute joun jou m’en anabi de Tholoze à Montréjau [6.56]; O feux sacrez [3.29] D’un oeil fardé d’un pipeur entretien [2.51]; Povre Coeur entourné [4.22]; Autant en emporte le vent [1.31]; Qu’est devenu ce bel oeil [2.09]; Je suis disheritée a 6 [3.26]; Nostre vicaire un jour de feste [2.02]; Je boy á toy mon compagnon [1.41]; La Guerre [16.47]
Eric Bellocq (lute); Jean-Marc Aymes (positive organ); Malcolm Bothwell (viola da gamba); Ensemble Clément Janequin/Dominique Visse
rec. Église Évangélique, Allemande, Paris, June 2004
Harmonia Mundi’s latest gimmick in the budget-priced Musique D’Abord series is to package the disc in a flimsy cardboard case where it can easily slip out but make the CD itself look, on its front, like a little six inch pop disc with grooves from the 1960s. Inside the front cover, is a small card with an essay in English and in French. This exhorts you to discover the sung texts. Indeed Jean-Yves Haymoz’s interesting essay strongly suggests that we listen to the chansons with the text in front of us. So we are told to go to the website, I did that but found it exceedingly difficult to navigate to the texts. When I did I print them off I discovered that they are only available in French. HM’s digital assistant Eric Chambon had no translations. Fortunately I am a French speaker but 16th century French is not always easy and in the case of the chanson, Monsieur l’Abbé dialect is used. Ah well …
When this disc originally emerged in 2005 The Ensemble Clément Janequin was returning to a composer they had originally tackled in 1985 on a disc entitled Meslanges-Chansons and fantasies de violes it may still be obtainable (HMA 1901182). I have a copy of it and the instrumental work is supplied by Ensemble Les Élements. On this new disc the voices are joined by just three instrumentalists on lute, organ and viole de gamba. Their gentle accompaniments succeed in adding a delicious colour to the overall texture.
Some of you may recognize Le Jeune as a composer of some of those early Protestant hymns and Psalms - over 350 in all. He was a Huguenot and followed that creed. He could also turn his hand to polyphony in the Franco-Flemish line and to setting rather racy secular texts. He falls into the early Humanist tradition and believes in expression of the text first and foremost. This was coupled with a useful way of writing catchy melodies and syncopated rhythms. One of his most famous pieces - sadly not recorded here - is Revoici venir du printemps. The ones that are on this disc are well up to the composer’s usual high and charming standard. These are model performances it seems to me - there is nothing like a French group performing this sort of slightly recherché French repertoire. Let me pick out a few favourites.
From the point of view of interesting, chromatic and inventive harmony listen to the rather serious-minded Povre Coeur entourné and the even more curious Qu’est devenu with its contorted top line. From a humorous and light-hearted aspect take on the aforementioned Monsieur l’Abbé - a bit of priest mockery always went (goes?) down well, energetically sung on this CD. Also light and airy is the piece which gives the CD its name, Autant en emporte le vent literally ‘Gone with the wind’, a pretty girl steals a single kiss with her lovely mouth and then vanishes. Also with an open-air feel we hear Nostre vicaire un jour de feste and Je boy á toy in which the singers fall into the trap of accruing a rough vocal quality - but it may appeal. For sheer beauty of expressive lines O feux sacrez and D’un oeil fardé d’un pipeur entretien are outstanding. In these examples Le Jeune moves effortlessly from homophony to polyphony as the text inspires him. This is quite typical of his style.
In the last piece, La Guerre he outstrips Janequin’s setting in length and fecundity of ideas. Whereas the older master’s chanson is through-composed with magnificently set and vivid musical images, Le Jeune’s piece is set strophically with dancing rhythms and clear melodies. This serves to remind the listener that the war in question is really that between Mars and Venus - the war of love. Accordingly there are all the double-entendres you might expect – ‘Et l’ament valereux’.
As indicated the performances are memorable and delightful and the recording ideal. 

Gary Higginson

Memorable and delightful performances … and the recording is ideal.

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