In their booklet with this recording Kajsa Dahlbäck and Heidi Peltoniemi state that it has the aim of “introducing the listener to the chamber music salons of the late 17th and early 18th century Paris”. It does so with a skilful choice of repertoire: there are some predictable names – Marin Marais, Robert de Visée, François Couperin – but most of the composers represented here will otherwise be known only to a coterie of specialists. Indeed, Christophe Ballard (1641–1715), Jean-Baptiste Drouart de Bousset (1662–1725), Joseph Chabanceau de la Barre (1633–1678) and Julie Pinel (c. 1710–1737) were all new names to me, and Louis Couperin (c. 1626–1661) isn’t half as well known as his nephew.
Louis C’s Suite in C minor (five movements, taking nine minutes to perform) is the largest single item in the programme, and it is extended by two lute pieces by de Visée; together, they form a sort of non-vocal island in the centre of the island before the songs resume – with the first two of four by Julie Pinel, the only female composer represented here.
The booklet text confesses that not much is known about Pinel. The fact that she died in her mid-twenties can hardly have helped her leave a mark on history, but the blend of confidence and poise in her songs suggest that she had a personality that, in time, would indeed have popped its head above the hedge of indifference.
The recording ends with a gentle passacaglia, Jean-Baptiste Drouart de Bousset’s Pourquoy, doux rossignol, which is exquisitely lovely and not a little moving in its understatement.
The performances are spotless: Kajsa Dahlbäck’s soprano is pure and agile, and her fellow musicians all acquit themselves splendidly when given their chance to shine. The booklet gives the French texts of the songs and an English translation; and the recorded sound is vivid, almost as if you were sitting by the musicians.
Earthly Angels: Kajsa Dahlbäck, soprano; Heidi Peltoniemi, viola da gamba; Simone Vallerotonda, theorbo; Aapo Häkkinen, harpsichord
Alba ABCD 464