Pleasures for the Louvre


The Chamber of Louis XIII


This program blends viols, flutes and lutes with the singers, thus offering an intimate atmosphere in which to recreate the world of the night and its eerie figures that topple the established order of the world: from twilight, through nightmarish monstrosities, bizarre dreams, and culminating in the break of Dawn as a metaphor of the arrival of a more pacified reality.

Among the great masters of court music in 17th century France, Antoine Boësset probably generated more enthusiasm and passion than any other musician of the era: his songs were widely printed and adapted (for voice and lute or for polyphonic settings), occasionally featuring in the great royal ballets as of the late 1610s until well after his death in 1643. Numerous spiritual parodies were made of his songs, indicating his immense popularity: his beautiful melodies met with such success that the clergy sought to direct congregations toward less profane festivities and passions by applying new words to the original prosody. The same images and references often appear, however the object of adoration is no longer a lovely young shepherdess or odd and carnival-like figures, but rather the Almighty Savior.

This reuse of the arias of Boësset makes precisely the junction between the disorder of the carnival and the Lent period. The way that arias are performed both for entertainment and edification of the masses show that the borderline is very subtle. The swing from the disorder to the Lent is symbolized with the Sub Umbra Noctis, small motet for bass voice from Henry Du Mont who was master of the Chapel and forged the French motet rules. In the depth and shade of the night, the sinners are haunted by the torment of remorse. And the Lent can begin.

By opting for a small-scale ensemble, the program also provides an inverted mirror of Carnival: the very music that was performed in the great winter’s-end spectacles at the Louvre Courtyard turns up in salons and chapels for more intimate ceremonies that nevertheless display the intensity and passion of an ardent flame burning through all the nights.

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