Madame d'Amours

Madame d'Amours

  • Ensamble :ATTAIGNANT CONSORT - Kate Clark

The elegant, keyless, cylindrical flute of the sixteenth century had a reedy, penetrating sound, closer to the cornetto than to any other wind instrument of the day. It had an impressive range of two and a half octaves and an evenness of tone quality that would not be matched again until the nineteenth century. Its dynamic flexibility and responsiveness to subtleties of articulation endowed it with a vocal quality. And, for all its outward simplicity, it was capable of a startling virtuosity. Together with its bass and descant variants, it played a full part in that distinctive sixteenth-century musical phenomenon: the instrumental consort. The very idea of such a consort swept across Europe like a scented breeze intimating the coming of spring. It brought the promise of new possibilities of expression and participation in music making. It is hard not to see in the consort principle, with all its various implications for communal music-making, both a product and an instrument of humanist influence. In the eyes of humanists, human endeavour attained a new, enhanced status. In music, secular forms moved into a new relationship with sacred ones to which they had formally been considered subordinate. A basic education in music and private music making for devotional or recreational purposes were considered to be good for individual morality.

This recording is focussed on repertoire for the renaissance flute consort, almost all of which was originally vocal music. Among the most-favoured secular genres in the sixteenth century, the chanson occupies a distinguished place by virtue of its enormous and international popularity, and its profuse representation in manuscript and early printed collections of instrumental music. The most plausible explanation (though it has not been an uncontested one) for the wide-spread transmission of secular polyphony in textless versions, from the second half of the fifteenth century onwards, is that it was increasingly often played and enjoyed in instrumental versions. For in this repertoire, the renaissance flute seems to encounter no obstacles whatever in expressing everything the music calls for: the ranges of the parts, the tonalities in which chansons were most commonly written, the sentiments expressed in their poetry, and even the French language itself, seem perfectly suited to this instrument's natural capacities.

The ATTAIGNANT CONSORT was co-founded in 1998 by Kate Clark (Australia), Frédérique Chauvet (France), Marion Moonen (the Netherlands) and Marcello Gatti (Italy). Four fellow graduates of the Royal Conservatorium in The Hague, they had all come to the Netherlands to specialise in the performance of historical flutes under either Wilbert Hazelzet or Barthold Kuijken. Each of the members is active in chamber ensembles and orchestras of international standing such as Les Musiciens du Louvre, Freiburger Barockorchester, Rheinische Kantorei, Musica Antiqua Köln, Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, Musica ad Rhenum, Concerto Köln and Cantus Cölln. Drawn together by a fascination with the renaissance flute, they have collaborated over many years with the Italian flute-maker Giovanni Tardino, exploring the sound world of this, until now, little-known instrument. The musicians aspire to the highest ideal of sixteenth-century consort playing, namely to imitate human speech and song by means of such refined articulation, expressivity of sound and subtlety of dynamic nuance, that »only the form of the human body is missing« (Silvestro Ganassi, Opera Intitulata Fontegara, 1535). ATTAIGNANT CONSORT works from facsimile editions of original part-books rather than scores, and performs as often as possible from memory, mindful of the aural tradition of learning in which many sixteenth-century instrumentalists were educated. The consort performs alone, or with lute or harp and sometimes with a singer. It has been acclaimed for concerts in Italy, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

Kate Clark, direction, flute Frédérique Chauvet, flute Marion Moonen, flute Marcello Gatti, flute Mathieu Langlois, flute Marta Graziolino, harp Nigel North, lute