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GRAMOPHONE (01/2016)
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Reviewer: Fabrice Fitch

The discography of the air de cour, though not huge, is very distinguished, and Le Poème Harmonique have contributed to it more significantly than any other ensemble. A triptych of discs about 10 years ago made a real impact, presenting some of the best-known pieces of the repertory as consort songs, or with a more substantial continuo section than the straight lute accompaniment that had prevailed previously. This winning formula is revisited here, with comparable success for the most part. Whereas their previous recordings focused on the genre’s well-known exponents, this one features some lesser‑known figures (though the incomparable Pierre Guédron puts in a few appearances). His Bien qu’un cruel martire is justly one of the recital’s high points but the others come from these minor masters. One such is Gérard de Beaulieu’s Helas que me faut-il faire, which opens the disc; another, Jean Boyer’s brooding Que ferayje?, hints at the darkest tragedy, while Costeley’s J’ayme trop mieux souffrir la mort harks back to the strophic songs of an earlier generation. All these are fully worthy of the ensemble’s preceding recitals. True, two or three of the selections towards the end of the disc aren’t quite on the same level, so that the recital loses a little in intensity as it draws to a conclusion. One could have done, perhaps, with another risqué item like the anonymous Allons vieille imperfaite, or a drinking song (of which there are plenty), for when these singers let their hair down, they bring the house down with it. But that might have worked against the programme’s emotional tenor, which is high seriousness and artifice. The continuo group turn in yet another outstanding performance, and at the risk of repeating myself, Claire Lefilliâtre’s is a voice that one does not tire of hearing.

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