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Viola da Gamba Society News
1 septembre 2009

Humori is a joint-project by Les Voix Baroques(Suzie LeBlanc and Catherine Wbster, sopranos; Matthew White, countertenor; Charles Daniels and Colin Balzer, tenors; Sumner Thompson, baritone) and Les Voix humaines Consort (Susie Napper, Margaret Little, Elin Söderström, viols; Matt Jennejohn, cornetto and recorder; Olivier Brault and Geneviève Giraldeau, violins; Sara Lackie, harp; Sylvain Bergeron, lute and guitar; Patrick Graham, percussion). This delightful compilation of late Renaissance and early Baroque music represents unaccompanied and accompanied vocal genres including the madrigal, chanson, lied, adn air, as well as instrumental interludes, dances, divisions, and duets by Vecchi, Monteverdi, Scheidt, Lassus, Lejeune, Bataille, Gibbons, Dowland, and others. All texts are provided in French, English, and their original language when not either of those two.
(...) the program an a whole presents a variety of genres and combines them in a way that is both fresh and appealing. Indeed, the fact that such variety of region and genre is brought together into a satisfying whole deserves comment-such an effort could easily be derailed into a disjointed hodgepodge.
The charm of the CD lies not only in the quality of the music selected, but also in the beautiful performance recorded. Each of the six voices is both distinctive and pleasant, and the blend achieved is due more to impeccable tuning than to any sort of unified choral sound. Solid engineering with close mikes and an excellent acoustic further enhance the consistently fine clarity and balance of the combined ensemble.
(...) Much appreciated is the way instrumental groups are employed to add texture and contrast to genres that are frequently performed a capella. For example, in "Fate Silentio" byVecchi, the instrumental ensemble is employed to create "concerted" effects, most notably when various vocal groups join forces. Another example is the imaginative use of driving harpsichord chords to punctuate the German refrain of "Quis Quis Requiem Quaeris" ("'Whoever wants a Quiet Life") by Othmayr. Though this piece's presentation of domestic strife is shocking to our modern sensibilities, it does allow for marvelous contrast between a Latin motet, which glides serenely by in the upper voices, and a pounding German interpolation sung by two basses that advises husbands to "biff her, throw her around, beat her. knock her about..."
The viols are best showcased in the English section, which, given The viols are best showcased in the English section, which, given
the time period covered here, is to be expected. Selections from Tobias Hume's The Pashion for Musicke {or t'wo viole da gamba and other instruments are especiallyh aunting. These pieces in particular exhibit artful bowing and marvelous musical flexibility, especially in the execution of the virtuosic passages. The instrumental pieces in general have an air of polished improvisation, a sound notably aided in the Italian pieces by the scrubby bowing and rhythmic divisions executed by the bass viols, as well as by some excellent and varied percussion effects. (...)
Tracy Cowart - Viola da Gamba Society News

Fanfare Magazine
1 juillet 2009

The plural in this album’s title is the giveaway, if it was ever needed, that the contents refer not to humor in the modern, singular sense, but to the widespread European Renaissance belief in bodily “humors.” These were based on the cosmogenic theory of four elements by the pre-Socratic philosopher, Empedocles. Air, fire, water, and earth were the “roots” of the universe; and as humans are the universe in microcosm, they partook of this, as well. Changes to health and personality were due to shifts in balance between the four elements—so sanguinary, choleric, phlegmatic, and melancholy people had too great a preponderance of one element present in their systems.
This release concentrates its attention on Carnival and Lent, occasions at the time for extremes in indulgence and abstinence—what the liner notes insightfully term the “theater of humors.” What we get from all this are songs urging lust, drink, madness, and food on the one hand, and councils of misogyny, despair, and the welcome of death on the other. There’s much to enjoy in both groups, both obscure and well known, from LeJeune’s amusing and mildly risqué Une puce j’ay dedans l’oreille, to Dowland’s supremely depressing From Silent Night.
Les Voix Baroques isn’t well known, despite having several releases on Analekta and ATMA Classique. They certainly deserve more recognition. Their lineup of six vocalists has repeatedly changed over the years, but the qualities the ensemble exhibits as a whole have not. They display secure intonation and a wonderful vocal blend (East’s Poor is the Life), excellent balance between contrasting textures (Othmayr’s Quis quis requiem quaeris), and a refined sense of dynamics (Vecchi’s Fate silentio). My only criticism is that—perhaps in an effort to show off these qualities—from time to time they assume unusually slow tempos. Lassus’s popular Matona mia cara, for example, is taken very broadly here, with an attendant loss of wit, and Monteverdi’s Zefiro torna, with an almost somnambulistic lack of zest; but these are the exceptions rather than the rule.
The vocal selections are interspersed with non-vocal ones, supplied by members of the consort Les Voix Humaines. They furnish a broken ensemble made up of violins, cornett, recorder, harp, harpsichord, guitar, gambas, and percussion. In temperament they are similar to their vocal counterparts, offering generally relaxed interpretations. They join Les Voix Baroques a few times, most notably in the accompaniment to Bailly’s air, Yo soy la locura, and a taut, energized reading of d’Estrées’s bransle Les bouffons that surrounds Bataille’s drinking song, Qui veut chaser une migraine. Le Poème Harmonique gave the latter a fine performance on an Alpha recording several years ago, but it is surpassed here in textural variety, vivacity, and enunciation.
The engineering is close and rich in overtones, as it should be. An attractive essay examining the European Renaissance traditions of Carnival and Lent provides further attractions. All texts are included, along with translations. My only regret is that the program lasts under an hour. When it gets this good, you feel much as you might in a concert of early music—that it should certainly offer more. A good half dozen encores, at least.
In any case, highly recommended.
Barry Brenesal - Fanfare Magazine

American Record Guide
1 mai 2009

The concept for this release is quite complex, involving Orazio Vecchi’s madrigal comedy on the humors, the four ancient humors themselves and the moods associated with each, and the idea of carnival, a time of feasting, excess, and indulgence, as a preface to the stern self-denials of Lent. The notes, which are well written, explain all this very well. This release is extremely well conceived and executed.

The Canadians have given us some great recordings in recent years, and this one is no exception. The singing here, as well as the instrumental playing, is outstanding. Les Voix Baroques is a small ensemble, and most of the singers’ names have become quite familiar in the early music world: Suzie LeBlanc and Catherine Webster are the sopranos here, Matthew White the countertenor, Charles Daniels and Colin Balzer the tenors, and Sumner Thompson the baritone. Not only is the performance technically superior, but also the singers are very good at transmitting the “humor” of the work, whether it be comic or melancholic.

The works are divided both according to the humors themselves and according to the “humor” of the countries thought to represent them best: Germany is the bellicose humors, France the comic, Italy the amorous, and England the melancholic. The program is introduced and concluded with two of Vecchi’s madrigals. Several of the composers are obscure, but some well known names include Michael Praetorius, Roland de Lassus, Samuel Scheidt, Claudio Monteverdi, Tobias Hume, John Dowland, and Orlando Gibbons. Some of these works are funny simply because they don’t seem to fit the character of the composer as he is best known. For example, I connect Lassus almost entirely with church music, not comic songs, even though he did write a lot of them. Clearly, the great composer had a well developed sense of the incongruous—his song here would be a perfect example for an English teacher to use in illustrating inappropriate similes. The lovesick swain, singing beneath the window of his lady love, begs her to listen because he loves her greatly, “as a Greek does his capon”; he promises to go hunting and bring her “woodcocks as fat as a kidney”; he belittles himself for his lack of elegance but hastens to assure her that he’s “no laggard[;] I’ll make love to you all night long, thrusting like a ram”.

Excellent sound, good notes, texts with translations.
Ardella Crawford -  American Record Guide

The Toronto Star
10 mars 2009

★★★★ (out of 4)
Some of the finest small-ensemble performances of early-Baroque music in Canada come from Montreal. Les Voix Baroques – sopranos Suzie LeBlanc and Catherine Webster, countertenor Matthew White, tenors Charles Daniels and Colin Balzer and baritone Sumner Thompson – have here assembled music meant for the period immediately before and after Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent in the Christian calendar. As such, it mixes celebration and reflection. This delectable CD contains well-known as well as obscure works from the late 16th and early 17th centuries by such composers as Michael Praetorius, Samuel Scheidt and Claudio Monteverdi. The singing is balanced and remarkably expressive. Accompaniment as well as instrumental interludes come from ever-elegant consort, Les Voix Humaines.
John Terauds - The Toronto Star

Le Journal de Montréal
7 février 2009

★★★★ 1/2
Toujours perspicace et à l'affût du moindre défi, la productrice Johanne Goyette, dont nous soulignons constamment son travail éditorial, livre un cadeau parfait, pour les amateurs de voix. Sous le signe du baroque et de l'humour, parfois grinçant, elle a réuni l'ensemble des Voix Baroques, la soprano Suzie LeBlanc en tête et le Consort les Voix Humaines, sous la direction de Margaret Little. De l'humour léger (Italie) ay mélancolique (Angleterre) à l'humour encadré (Allemagne), ce disque est un véritable feu d'artifice baroque magnifiquement conçu. Du travail d'orfèvre.

Christophe Rodriguez - Le Journal de Montréal