Soprano leads the way

L’AIR PARFUME

La Compania

Deakin Edge, Federation Square

Saturday July 16

 

Jacqueline Porter

                          Jacqueline Porter

 

A short program, as is this excellent period music ensemble’s wont, but an entertaining exposition of the subtle pleasures of the air du cour, the court song genre that is linked with the reign of Louis XIII, although those particular decades seem to have seen its finest final flowering.   Much of the music from this program preceded Louis’ accession in 1610; indeed only two names – Pierre Guedron and his son-in-law Antoine Boesset  –  actually worked at that monarch’s court.   On Saturday night, most of the other representatives heard from who worked in this form were retained by Louis’ predecessors, Henri III (Girard de Beaulieu) and Charles IX (Guillaume Costeley).  One of the names – Philippe de Vuildre – actually held posts for the Tudor monarchs Henry VIII and Edward VI.

Danny Lucin and his band – a pretty compact group this time around – gave us a fair tour of the air’s expressive breadth, punctuated by three bransles, a compact group of sequential allemandes by Claude Gervaise, and the only composition by Gervaise’s business partner Pierre Attaignant that you hear today: Tourdion, or Quand je bois du vin clairet if you’re in a singing mood.

This is music that can take you by surprise, breaking an anticipated pattern as in the opening anonymous Bransle de Loraine where the tune’s second half doesn’t balance the first, making you feel that the shape is about two bars short; dancing to this, you’d need to keep your eyes on your partner.  Much the same obtained in a balancing phrase during Guedron’s suspiciously racy Je suis bon garcon, where the singer is nothing of the kind.   Anonymous gave us two of the recital’s more intense pleasures in the air Une jeune fillette with its caressingly soft accompaniment from Rosemary Hodgson’s lute and the gamba of Victoria Watts, and the Bransle de la Torche, a stately stepper with some resonant open string punctuation marks from Emma Williams’ violin.

In soprano Jacqueline Porter, the company scored a bright carrying voice, very handy in some of these songs that occupy a middle register for a good deal of the time.   Yet the singer had room to be heard to fine effect in the plaintive Me voila hors du naufrage which lutenist Charles Tessier set at a more sustained high tessitura than much else on this program.   She also made light work of the off-centre accents in Beaulieu’s Rosette, pour un peu d’absence, a lucid expression of disappointment and disdain from a lover whose girl proved  .  .  .  inconstant, as they say.   And another sample of mixed emotional language emerged in Costeley’s Mignonne, allons voir si la rose which sweetly invites the addressee to bed with that tired excuse that her beauty won’t last; as old as Vivamus, mea Lesbia, et amemus but full of innocent charm in Porter’s calm, beguiling delivery.

Porter held her own in terms of audibility, the only occasions giving cause for concern emerging when Lucin’s cornetto and Glen Bardwell’s sackbut were together in the mix.   Even so, she fared better than Hodgson and Watts who were inaudible during some of the dance doubles.   Christine Baker contributed a stolid if timbrally unadventurous percussion, but the ensemble needed more textural variety  –  at least another violin, or the buzzing energy of a dulcian or two.    A possible move might be to utilise two singers – even three? – as some of this music could be performed to fine effect with the supporting upper lines sung rather than (or as well as) played.

La Compania ends its Deakin Edge year on Saturday November 12 with Il Paradiso, a turn around the early Italian Baroque with particular reference to the age of Monteverdi and his contemporaries.