Bousset: Airs Sérieux

Jean-Baptiste de Bousset: Airs Sérieux
Le Jardin Secret, Elizabeth Dobbin
Fuga Libera FUG736. 56’42

For many years I was invited to review the International Young Artists’ Early Music Network Competition, held every other year in York. Apart from initially getting to know the young musicians competing in the final, one of the most rewarding aspects was that competitors would keep me in touch with their developing careers, which usually included them sending me their first CD a few years later. The winner of the 2007 competition was Le Jardin Secret (centred on soprano Elizabeth Dobbin) who, rather unusually for competitions, also won the audience prize. In their case, I seem to have missed out their first two CDs, but have new received this, their third, CD.

Jean-Baptiste de Bousset (1662-1725) is not the most prominent of French Baroque composers, but his contribution to the world of solo song was immense, notably with his collection of Airs Sérieux, 850 of which were published between 1690 and 1725. As the liner notes explain, the air sérieux was a sub-genre of the air français, which had its roots in the late 16th century and, in turn, traces its own roots to the earlier air de cour that originated in 1571. Initially intended for performance in the Royal Court, the air sérieux developed into music for intimate settings in private saloons, rather than for the Court, usually arranged by, and for women. Continue reading