Two rare L’Oiseau-Lyre recordings of French Baroque masterpieces, newly remastered and making their first appearance on CD.
From the time of its foundation in 1932 by the Australian-born, Paris-adopted philanthropist Louise Hanson-Dyer, Editions de L’Oiseau-Lyre specialised in French early music as the name of the imprint implied. The company’s first complete scholarly edition a year later comprised the complete works of François Couperin to mark the bicentenary of his death. Although the company’s post-war recording activity centred on London, French repertoire continued to be recorded locally.
This pair of LPs released in 1954 and 1955 marked a bold departure: sacred vocal consort music, still hardly known to the record-buying public, in performances of scholarly authority (for the mid-1950s), technical finesse and lively temperament. This reissue presents them once more on CD, complemented by authoritative booklet notes from the original releases by the respected writer on French music, Marc Pincherle.
Taking the soaring haut-contre line in Couperin’s grand Motet pour Saint-Suzanne was the English tenor William Herbert, who features on several other L’Oiseau-Lyre recordings reissued by Eloquence, alongside the soprano Jennifer Vyvyan and conductor Anthony Lewis: among them Handel’s Semele (4825055) and sacred Litanies by Mozart (4825041).
Herbert is again one of the soloists in the no-less starrily cast record of Lully’s imposing setting of the Miserere. Lewis’s conducting is alive to the cool splendour of Lully’s writing which so tellingly anticipates the set-pieces of Handel’s oratorios. Essential listening for aficionados of the French Baroque and for anyone with an ear for singing of high artistry, whatever the era.
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‘Madame de Sevigne declared that in heaven there could be no other music but Lully’s and this lovely work makes one understand just what she meant … The performance is imbued with true artistry.’ - Gramophone, November 1954
‘Professor Lewis keeps things going and takes advantage of every opportunity for achieving variety … [the soloists] blend into an effective ensemble. Good recording.’ - High Fidelity, October 1955 (Lully)
‘William Herbert, in excellent voice, deals very successfully with the high tessitura of his vocal line … Anthony Lewis directs the admirable and well-toned instrumental playing … and the recording and balance are first-rate.’ - Gramophone, November 1955 (Couperin)
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FRANÇOIS COUPERIN (1668–1733)
1–7. Motet de Sainte-Suzanne
Jennifer Vyvyan, soprano William Herbert, tenor George James, bass Alan Loveday · Neville Marriner, violins Christopher Bunting, cello Ralph Downes, organ Boris Ord, harpsichord Sir Anthony Lewis
8–11. 4 Versets d’un Motet composé de l’ordre du Roy (1703)
12. Verset du Motet de l’année dernière: Qui dat nives
13. Verset du Motet composé de l’ordre du roi: Deus virtutem convertere
14. Dialogus inter Deum et hominem
Jennifer Vyvyan, Elsie Morison, sopranos William Herbert, tenor George James, bass Alan Loveday, Neville Marriner, violins Christopher Bunting, cello Geoffrey Gilbert, Douglas Whittaker, flutes Joy Boughton, oboe Ralph Downes, organ Boris Ord, harpsichord Sir Anthony Lewis
JEAN-BAPTISTE LULLY (1632–1687)
Margaret Ritchie, Elsie Morison, sopranos Alfred Deller, countertenor Richard Lewis, William Herbert, tenors Bruce Boyce, baritone The St Anthony Singers Ensemble Orchestral de L’Oiseau-Lyre Sir Anthony Lewis