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Clement Janequin

Langue disponible : anglais
The Ensemble Clément Janequin has been a pathbreaking group in the interpretation of French Renaissance music since its founding in 1978 by countertenor Dominique Visse. The ensemble has a large catalog of often authoritative recordings on the Harmonia Mundi label. In the late '70s and early '80s, as the music world was being reshaped by the emergence of the great English a cappella ensembles (Gothic Voices, The Tallis Scholars, The Hilliard Ensemble), a virtuoso countertenor from France launched a sonic revolution of his own. That singer, Dominique Visse, founded the Ensemble Clément Janequin in 1978, and over the more than 40 years of the group's career, it has often almost owned the performance of Renaissance French music and has inspired many younger groups. As of the early 2020s, Visse remains the group's leader and conductor. Much that is unique to the sound of Ensemble Clément Janequin derives from the peculiar artistry of its founder. Visse is a celebrated countertenor with a long list of operatic triumphs, from Baroque performances under conductors William Christie and René Jacobs to a premiere of Luciano Berio's Outis. His bright, facile, and often irreverent virtuosity may be heard in the upper reaches of nearly every piece recorded by the ensemble and has helped mold the other players musically. The ensemble performs primarily with one or two voices to a part, bringing to the foreground the individuality of musical lines. The bright and often nasal vocal quality of Visse's other singers, with some subtle ornamentation, heightens this vertical differentiation. Instrumental accompaniment (from lutes and gambas to organs, cornetts, and sackbuts in a Janequin mass recording), though frequent, remains generally unobtrusive. Utter sympathy with the individuality of texts, however, trumps every other feature of the group's performances. The ensemble's characteristic panache and vigor has produced authoritative interpretations, especially for the 16th century chanson repertory. Among the ensemble's more than 30 recordings, most of them on Harmonia Mundi, collections of French vernacular music have taken center stage. These have included the music of the group's namesake, Clément Janequin and his contemporary Claudin de Sermisy, as well as Anthoine de Bertrand, Orlande de Lassus, and Claude le Jeune. The group's first recording, Janequin and Sermisy chansons entitled Les Cris de Paris ("The Cries of Paris"), palpably demonstrates such text-based stylistic differentiation. The simple bourgeois dignity of the mainstream "Parisian" chanson starkly contrasts with the farcical drama of the title track and with the onomatopoeic La bataille ("The Battle"). The ensemble cultivates for both types of music a forthright, almost rustic sound, but when texts call for evocative dramatic sounds (or bawdy humor, another specialty), its performance is sparked by whispers, shouts, and a generally Carnivalesque soundscape. For sacred repertory (recordings of masses by Le Jeune, La Rue, and a fine rendition of the Josquin Missa Pange lingua), the group adopts a sound that is more spacious but no less vibrant. The ensemble's projects of the 1980s and 1990s also included a series of recordings of French settings of the poetry of Pierre de Ronsard and of Rabelais and, in 1998, a venture into the Spanish Golden Age. Even as younger performers came on the scene, the Ensemble Clément Janequin has kept up a vigorous recording schedule, releasing new albums almost annually through the mid-2010s. The group ventured into sacred music in 2003 with a recording of Antoine Brumel's Missa et ecce terrae motus, recorded with the instrumental group Les Sacqueboutiers, and in 2009, with L'écrit du Cri, it made its only recording of music later than the Renaissance, including compositions as recent as the 21st century. The Ensemble Clément Janequin returned on Harmonia Mundi in 2021 with Josquin Desprez: The Renaissance Master, on which the group was joined by the Ensemble Organum and conductor Paul Hillier.
© Timothy Dickey & James Manheim /TiVo
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