Amarante – Airs de cour / Céline Scheen

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Please be aware that no English notes accompany this Flora Records album of songs performed by Céline Scheen titled Amarante. Also, there are no translations of the songs, which are sung and printed in the booklet in French. If you don’t read or understand French and have no interest at all in listening to songs not knowing what is being sung, you should probably hit the back button now. However, even with this strike against it, I’m strongly compelled to recommend this beautifully packaged, recorded and performed Flora CD of airs de cour from several little known 17th century French composers.

Céline Scheen is a Belgian operatic soprano and is accompanied here by Philippe Pierlot playing bass viol and Eduardo Egüez on the lute and theorbo. I didn’t need to know what Ms. Scheen was singing to thoroughly enjoy her program of melancholy songs interspersed with instrumental interludes. Her dark, smoky soprano is void of any distracting idiosyncrasies and it seems perfect to me – passionate, but understatedly so, unaffected, languid and pure.

I'm new to the Flora label, which itself seems to be rather new. The earliest releases that I can find from them come from nearly a year ago, April of 2012, and I count only fourteen titles in their entire catalog. Two more Flora Records CDs have just arrived, and I've listened to one of them, Strike the Viol, which is music of Jenkins, Lawes and Locke. It too is very good, similar to this but entirely instrumental. The third is a disc of consort music (musicke, actually) by William Lawes. Flora seems to be developing a specialty for this repertoire, and they do it extremely well. Incidentally, both of the newest titles from Flora have at least limited notes in English.