This is Volume 2 in a series exploring the French air de cour, secular songs of the very early Baroque concerned for the most part with the most important things in life – love, and drinking. Les Arts Florissants and William Christie are joined by five singers. In performance, this was apparently semi-staged. In an idea not too far off from that of the jukebox musical, Christie and co pulled these songs into a dramatic narrative following the central theme of “love triumphs over all”. It’s a nice idea, though a little wasted when there’s no summary of what sorts of twists and turns the newly-created narrative took other than the lyrics. What did
the singers do onstage to outline the plot? Not a clue.

Although the theme is pretty light-hearted, there’s some serious musicianship going on here; the songs by Michel Lambert in particular bristle with complex four-part harmonies that wind up sounding more like Monteverdi madrigals than anything else. So, how’s the performance? As usual for Les Arts Florissants, they’re absolutely scintillating and, honestly, are pretty hard to fault. Lovely singing, a rock-solid ensemble, and all highly melodious repertoire.

As always, Les Arts Florissants and William Christie’s performances introduce listeners to music all too rarely explored. Possibly not to everyone’s taste, but if you like either French song or the early Baroque this will be worth raising a glass to.

Composer: Charpentier, Moulinié, Lambert et al
Composition: Airs Serieux et à Boire
Performer: Les Arts Florissants/William Christie
Catalogue Number: Harmonia Mundi HAF8905306