Airs de Cour - Catherine King & Jacob Heringman - Gramophone

The composers represented here are unlikely to be familiar to many, but the charming songs they composed to please the ears of the court of Louis XIII during the first half of the seventeenth century form a remarkably unified and distinctive body of work. This is unsurprising when you consider that they were mostly working in close proximity – and in several cases were even related – but it is presumably also an indication that composers and listeners alike were extremely pleased with what they had. Boesset stated in one of his publications that the King had received his songs with love, and, hearing them performed as tenderly as they are on this disc, it is not hard to imagine Louis and his courtiers listening with pleasure for hours on end. The songs are modest in ambition – strophic settings, mostly for one voice and lute but with some dialogues as well, setting the standard type of melancholy, not-too-heart-rending poems of pastoral love and longing – but they have a rhythmic freedom and unpredictability which is quite refreshing and prevents them from falling into monotony.
From their first notes, these performances establish an intimacy and sense of concentration that draw the listener in with subtle insistence. Both singers capture the mood well, imposing nothing on the music that is not already there and never forcing their voices into stridency for unnecessary effect. Some of the more florid ornaments they have gleaned from contemporary sources sound less than perfectly natural, but in general this is the kind of unsullied beauty of melody and vocal timbre that can momentarily make the whole world seem a better and quieter place. Charles Daniels’s gentle voice in particular sounds made for this music, and his touching and elegant performance of Moulinie’s Enfin la beaute is not one I shall forget in a hurry.'

01 April 2012