Rabelais: Fay ce que vouldras

Sacqueboutiers, Ensemble Clément Janequin, Dominique Visse director
68:54
Flora 2410
Music by Attaignant, Bataille, Bertrand, Compère, Costeley, Janequin, Josquin, Lassus, Lejeune & Sermisy

For those acquainted with their work, it comes as no surprise that the Ensemble Clément Janequin have had a long association with the works of Rabelais. Their 1994 CD Une fête chez Rabelais was in itself the result of a successful concert programme, and this present CD was also preceded by a series of live performances. Such is the wealth of surviving Renaissance French chansons that the two CDs only have one chanson in common. The Sacqueboutiers, who nowadays have dropped their regional identifier ‘de Toulouse’, provide a forthright accompaniment for many of the numbers and some impressive instrumental numbers, while the singers, led by their distinctive alto/director Dominique Visse, present splendidly characterised performances of the songs. Over the years the Ensemble have made this area of Renaissance music their specialist realm, and their grainy, robust singing often skirting on the raucous, seems to me just right for the present project. Another major delight of this package is the selection of splendid readings largely from Rabelais’ Gargantua performed by the versatile-voiced Vincent Bouchot. It is unfortunate that the reader’s voice is given such an artificial studio acoustic, contrasting uncomfortably with the ‘live’ acoustic of the music, but Mons. Bouchot’s splendid Renaissance pronunciation carries all before it. Anglophone listeners will find the lack of translations a disadvantage, although the full texts of songs and readings are provided in French. The otherwise lavish accompanying book has excellent programme notes (in French only) and wonderful illustrations, some of the period (including the wonderful crumhorn-nosed figure on the cover), some designed specially for the publication.

D. James Ross