A unique programming scenario highlights this second release by Les Délices, a Baroque instrumental trio founded in 2009 by Baroque oboist Debra Nagy, with members Mélisande Corriveau on viola da gamba and pardessus de viole, and Eric Milnes on harpsichord. Here the trio performs 17th- and 18th-century vocal airs and 20th-century jazz standards and torch songs, creating mindset-altering music.
As no published solo music existed for Baroque woodwinds prior to 1700, vocal songs were adapted for instruments. Les Délices chose French love songs from some of the greatest 17th-century songwriters. Highlights include Marin Marais’ Prelude in A Minor featuring intricate ornamentations and trills, clear phrasing and clear harpsichord accompanying cadences. Nice melodic and ornamental interplay between harpsichord and oboe makes for a straightforward Baroque rendition of Jean-Baptiste de Bousett’s Pourquoy, doux rossignol. Strong ensemble playing keeps the listener’s attention throughout a slow and heartbreaking rendition of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Tristes apprets.
The big surprises here are the contemporary songs. For example, the Patsy Cline/Willie Nelson classic Crazy is true to the original, with the almost-country-band rhythmic harpsichord and viola da gamba supporting the wailing oboe melody. John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s Michelle highlights an upbeat pop harpsichord with a sing-along oboe melody. The closing Joseph Kosma/Johnny Mercer Autumn Leaves features almost percussive harpsichord chords with an almost walking bass viola da gamba background, highlighted by an oboe lead complete with solo improvisation.
This is successful risk-taking music!