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Love is Strange - Works for Lute Consort
Le Poème Harmonique/Vincent Dumestre
rec. 2005, Chapelle de l’Hôpital Notre-Dame du Bon-Secours, Paris,
ALPHA CLASSICS 305 [61.14]

CDs of lute consort music are not that common although I could pinpoint a few. One which really has stood for me dates back to 1985. It is on BIS under the title Three, Four and Twenty Lutes directed by Jakob Lindberg — a lute orchestra indeed, all players pictured on the disc booklet. However none of their pieces are replicated on this new disc.

This recording is a revamp of one originally released in 2005. Le Poème Harmonique directed by Vincent Dumestre consists of Dumestre himself playing not only a lute but also a treble mandore (really a higher pitched lute), cittern and a theorbo, Jean-Luc Tamby on lute and archlute, Éric Bellocq who plays a lute and a cittern. Add a four-course guitar played by Benjamin Perrot who adds to the group a bass lute, pitched a fourth below what we might call the ‘mean’ lute, and Massimo Moscardo who has two differing lutes and a ‘tiorbino’ a rather rare long-necked lute. There is also Pierre Hantaï who plays the virginal sometimes as a solo item as in a Galiardo by Morley or more interestingly in the lute group. He acts, one might say, as a sort of continuo but anyway adds to the overall colour.

The programme is varied and constantly interesting with some pieces for a large ensemble, some for smaller and some solo pieces juxtaposed. There are examples of arrangements of the popular melodies of the day like those of royal lutenist John Johnson whose output is mainly based on pre-existing material. These include pieces like Wakefilde on a Green and Sellengers Ronnde - also the inevitable Green sleeves. The first uses a ground bass as does Thomas Robinson’s Twenty Wais upon the Bells. There are dances like the Passymeasure Galliard by John Danyel. Then there are works especially conceived on a bigger scale for a consort. In this category we find Anthony Holborne’s beautiful Spiro and pieces based on other well-known melodies of the time with John Dowland’s Lacrimae surfacing in its consort version.

Some of the pieces would have been written for those expensive and wildly extravagant Jacobean court masques directed by Ben Jonson and the extraordinary Inigo Jones; especially pieces like the curiously titled A Grays inn, the First by Giovanni Coperario who was really plain John Cooper but after a trip to Italy came back with rather a high opinion of himself. The CD title comes from an arrangement of a delicious little song Love is Strange played as a solo by Dumestre.

The booklet essay consists of a discussion between Vincent Dumestre and an anonymous writer. Their conversation covers some interesting topics like “if the recording was re-made would anything be different” and “how was the programme put together”. There is also a discussion of the sources including the mysterious Straloch and Rowallan manuscripts especially edited for this recording by Rob MacKillop. The instrument-makers are also identified.

Throughout the disc the ensemble is immaculate as is the balance and stereo spacing. The recorded sound is also clear and rich, allowing an animated, vibrant and constantly colourful performance to shine through. This is aided by a set of pieces, which vary in speed, texture and genre from track to track. This disc has for me been a joy to encounter.

As mentioned, the interesting booklet essay is in French, English and German and all details of the instruments are offered.

Gary Higginson

Track listing
1. John JOHNSON (c.1540-1594) Wakefilde on a Green [4.48]
2. Benjamin COSYN (c.1570-1652) Dorick Prelude [1.56]
3. Anthony HOLBORNE (d.1602) Decrevi [4.48]
4. ANON Callinde [2.19]
5. Robert PARSONS (c.1528-1572) Ut Re Mi Fa Sol La [5.02]
6. Thomas ROBINSON (fl.1589-1610) Twenty Waies Upon the Bells [2.45]
7. John BULL (1562-1628) Irish Toy [0.55]
8. John JOHNSON Sellengers Ronnde [1.19]
9. ANON Green sleeves [2.31]
10. HOLBORNE Spero [4.29]
11. John JOHNSON Dump [2.54]
12. John DOWLAND (1563-1626) Lacrimae [2.57]
13. John DANYEL (1564-1626) Passymeasure Galliard [3.39]
14. Thomas MORLEY (1557-1602) Galiarda [1.58]
15. ANON A Toy [1.06]
16. JOHNSON Trenchmore [ 4.17]
17. Orlando GIBBONS (1583-1625) In Nomine XII "Crye" [1.58]
18. ANON Rowallan Manuscript: Corn Yairds [1.24]
19. Giovanni COPERARIO (c.1575-1626) A Gray’s Inn, the first [4.03]
20. ANON Love is Strange [1.10]
21. ANON Straloch Manuscript: Canaries [1.58]
22. ANON Upon La Mi Re [2.59]



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