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Harmonia Early Music

Music for the Infantas

This week we look for remnants of Spanish culture at the courts of Louis XIII and XIV. Plus, a new release by the French vocal ensemble Ludus Modalis.

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The two kings who ruled France during the 17th Century had more in common than might be assumed.  This included their respective marriages to Spanish Infantas.

The music heard at court during the reign of Louis XIII was undoubtedly driven by the latest trends.  Among the sundry offerings of instrumental and vocal music we find the ubiquitous song known as the air de cour.  And while French was the most common language of the courtly song, the presence of a Spanish queen ensured that her native language was also heard, if infrequently.

Perhaps the most prolific composer of airs de cour in languages other than French was Etienne Moulinié.  A collection of his works are found on the 1991 L’Empreinte Digitale release Étienne Moulinié: Airs de Cour.

Moulinié was, however, not alone as a composer of the airs de cour.  Other composers in and out of court acted in a similar fashion…especially when it came to songs in Spanish.  The French ensemble Le Poéme Harmonique is featured airs de cour in a series of recordings on the Alpha label.

Songs in the Queen’s native language were not the only artifacts from Spain found in court life.  By the middle of the century, the Spanish guitar has established itself as an instrument of choice among the nobility.  In fact, young Louis XIV received lessons from the greatest virtuoso of the time, Francesco Corbetta.  For his 2004 recording, La Guitarre Royale, baroque guitarist William Carter focused on Corbetta’s works.

Talk of music from 17th century France undoubtedly leads to that well-known Italian by the name of Jean-Baptiste Lully.  Even he set the Spanish language to music on a number of occasions.  Perhaps, the most famous example is the Entry of the Spaniards from Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, featured on the 2002 recording with La Simphonie du Marais (Hugo Reyne, dir.).

The vocal ensemble Ludus Modalis has recorded music of the Renaissance composer Paschal de L’Estocart in our new rlease of the week.  The composer’s entire Sacrae Cantiones of 1582 is given a fine reading under the direction of Bruno Boterf.

Here’s a video of Le Poéme Harmonique performing an excerpt from Boesset’s Una musiqua:


Bernard Gordillo

Bernard Gordillo was born in Managua, Nicaragua, and raised in New Orleans. He holds degrees from Centenary College of Louisiana, the Early Music Institute at Indiana University, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London). Bernard also writes and hosts the Harmonia Early Music Podcast.

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