Le Parler et le Silence - Music for flute consort / Attaignant Consort


The subtitle for this Ramée CD, Le Parler et le Silence performed by The Attaignant Consort, provides a succinct description of its contents: Music for flute consort and lute from the late 16th to the early 18th centuries. One clarification that might be made is that the music was largely not written for flute consort, but for consorts of various families of instruments (viols, for example) or for voices. Some of the pieces are songs, performed by a solo flute with lute. There are flute duets, trios and quartets, some of these with lute accompaniment. These various textures, along with the interspersed pieces for solo lute or theorbo, make for a varied and enjoyable program; one that is beautifully performed here from start to finish.

Incidentally, a 'consort' is simply the term used for an instrumental ensemble during the 16th and 17th centuries. If all of the instruments are of the same family, it is a 'whole consort', and if there are different instrument families present, it is a 'broken consort'. We have both types on this Ramée disc.

The three brief musical samples provided illustrate these textural varieties, each of the three being different from the other two. The first is Première Entrée for solo lute by Robert Ballard (c.1575-1645). The second, by Charles Tessier (1550-c.1610), is a work for a consort of four flutes with lute, and the third sample, by Antonine Boësset (1587-1643), is Si c'est un crime que l'aymer, a song performed by flute and lute.

Coming from the late renaissance and early baroque, the instruments most commonly heard in a consort setting are those of the viol family. These consorts are made up of, most commonly, a quartet of instruments either similar in pitch or contrasting. There is no vibrato employed, which lends the ensemble a wonderfully homogeneous sound, not unlike an organ. The Attaignant perform on renaissance and baroque transverse flutes of different sizes, achieving a range from the normal register of the high instrument down to the lowest one, with its rich, bass tones. Here too there is no vibrato present. It's a gorgeous, distinctive sound that is not easily forgotten.

The origin of the Attaignant Consort dates back to 1998, with three of the original four members still active in the ensemble. Joining the Attaignant performing on both 7-course lute and 14-course theorbo is the illustrious early music specialist Nigel North. In the end, the project wins primarily on the basis of the musicianship. And then there's the music, which is very beautiful. I'm certain none of the composers represented here ever imagined their music played with such perfection as this.

This is not the Attaignant Consort performing (quite inferior to them I must say), but I thought you might like to see what the instruments looked like.