L’Ecrit du Cri = Renaissance and 19th to 21st Century Songs – Ensemble Clement Janequin/ Dominique Visse, director & counter-tenor – Harmonia mundi

by | Aug 22, 2009 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

L’Ecrit du Cri = Renaissance and 19th to 21st Century Songs – Ensemble Clement Janequin/ Dominique Visse, director & counter-tenor – Harmonia mundi 902028, 73:50 **1/2:

Let me say from the outset that Harmonia mundi’s failure to include translations of these French texts greatly inhibit me (or any reviewer, aside from French speakers, for that matter) from fully appreciating the whole raison d’etre of this release. What we have here is an album by Renaissance up to contemporary composers dedicated to the lost art, or specialty, or even form of the town crier who was hawking his wares. These people were usually strictly regulated as to wages, where they could do this, and when. They were required to dress in certain ways and were restricted in what musical or percussive instruments they could use.

According to the notes, there was a long tradition that formulated the very existence of these sellers, and many of the melodies they used were also based on sometimes very old traditions. The composers on this album have taken this tradition into consideration in these quite different pieces and used many different approaches to the equally diverse texts and subject matter that they deal with. I found all of this, an obviously neglected area of recording of a valid part of musical and cultural history, quite fascinating.

However, the one question that kept lurking in my mind the entire times I was playing this CD was this: is this enjoyable or pleasant listening? The answer, I am afraid, is not really. Despite some of the interesting and even entrancing musical moments, overall the pieces are not that appealing musically, though I suppose that if one is able to keep the historical context in the very front of one’s mind the pleasure factor may increase. But the use of a counter-tenor, as artificial a musical construct as one can find, in this “music” (were any of the criers counter-tenors or even castratos?) belching out Sprechstimme-like sounds at the top of their lungs doesn’t do it for me, though it may for you. One comes away after hearing the more modern pieces wondering whether to take them seriously as compositions or demonstrations. I suppose as a documentary of this “art” this release could prove valuable, but for repeated listening I cannot imagine myself ever reaching for this again, especially as I have no idea as to what the “crier” is crying about to begin with—surely a detriment to selling one’s product or getting one’s point across. Sound however, is as good as HM usually provides, and the performances are probably excellent as well, though there is really nothing to compare them with.


ANONYMOUS: Chanson nouvelle de tous les cris de Paris
REGIS CAMPO: Les Cris de Marseille
EDOUARD DERANSART: Les Cris de la rue
VINCENT BOUCHOT: Les Cris de Paris
ALFRED LEBEAU: Lee Cloches du monastere
JEAN SERVIN: La Fricassee des cris de Paris
CLAUDE LEDOUX: Cri de blog
ALFRED ROLAND: Le Cri du Bagnerais
VINCENT SCOTTO: Le Cri du poilu

— Steven Ritter

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