CD Reviews

Musique pour Mazarin!

“Le Jardin Secret is a young ensemble that won both first prize and the audience prize in the 2007 Early Music Network International Young Artists’ Competition in York, UK. It’s easy to hear why; there’s a real vibrancy and freshness to these performances that compels one to hit the ‘repeat’ button for virtually every track.

“Musique pour Mazarin!” is Le Jardin Secret’s first recording, and features Italian and French vocal music from the time of the Cardinal Mazarin (1602-1661) and beyond. Thus we have works by Italian composers like Carissimi, Rossi and Pasqualini juxtaposed with those of French masters like Marc Antoine Charpentier, Lully, Louis Couperin and Campra.

Elizabeth Dobbin’s soprano is light and flexible without ever sounding eviscerated; her approach is both stylish and highly expressive. This is as obvious in the relative simplicity of Pierre Guédron’s Aux plaisirs as it is in the more intense Si ch’io voglio sperare by Marc Antonio Pasqualini or “Le perfide Renaud me fuit” from Lully’s Armide.

Dobbin is accompanied by a continuo group variously comprising theorbo, guitar, harpsichord, viola da gamba, cello and basse de violon; the playing is consistently excellent. The artistry of Sofie Vanden Eynde and David Blunden can also be savoured on its own, that of the former in a fine account of Robert de Visée’s arrangement of Lully’s Chaconne des Harlequins for theorbo, the latter’s in a selection of works for harpsichord including Michelangelo Rossi’s Toccata Settima.

Well-recorded and with superb booklet notes by Catherine Cessac, Musique pour Mazarin! is an auspicious debut indeed.” (William Yeoman, Goldberg Magazine, October 2008)

“first-class debut disc…Le Jardin Secret have a very bright future indeed…the performances are superb.” (The Telegraph, 12 July 2008)

“The brief instrumental solos are delicious…a confident and attractively programmed recording debut” (The Independent, 8 June 2008)

A brand-new recording from the supremely talented young group that brought us last year’s Musique pour Mazarin, this superb new disc contains music that is both fun and fascinating in equal measure. (Amazon Editorial Review, 2010)

“This is a remarkably well-thought-out programme, containing very few familiar pieces. Of real historical interest are the two examples of the prolific ‘Mazarinades’… Le Jardin Secret’s harpsichordist is David Blunden, an outstandingly gifted young Australian musician, who storms through the piece with blazing confidence and prodigious technique. Soprano Elizabeth Dobbin is another young Australian artist of great promise. Her voice is suitably light and agile for this repertory – on occasion I was reminded of Jill Feldman in her early career. She has a lovely sense of when and how to ornament and differentiates well the French and Italian styles. Le Jardin Secret’s début recording receives top-drawer treatment from CORO, which is exactly what these fine and enterprising artists deserve.” (International Record Review, September 2008)

“Beautiful gamba playing of Romina Lischka…The purely instrumental pieces [are] expertly played by David Blunden, whose nicely judged rubato emphasizes the battily chromatic ending. Elizabeth Dobbin’s expressive soprano gives almost continual pleasure”  (Gramophone, October 2008)

In their first recording, the ensemble turns in a delightful performance of this music. Dobbin sings all but six tracks, her voice and temperament well suited to the prevailing style. A few familiar pieces are included, such as Carissimi’s “Deh! memoria” and Charpentier’s “Tristes déserts,” but this disc provides an opportunity to broaden our grasp of music of the period with a few unfamiliar composers tossed in. Orazio Michi (1594–1641), for example, can be heard only on two recent CDs. She tries to differentiate the French and Italian elements of the program, but the subtleties were lost on me. The sound is natural and lovely. This is an unusual offering that will interest specialists.

FANFARE: J. F. Weber

Le Jardin Secret’s [Auf Wiener Art] must rate as one of the must-buys of the month….The programme is elegantly crafted and presents an invigorating melting pot of pieces and style…it is truly a disc that deservers one’s full attention for the whole of its generous 77 minutes. Soprano Elizabeth Dobbin’s voice is like a welcome shower of rain: clear, crisp and refreshing and she is ably and excellently accompanied by Sofie Vanden Eynde (theorbo and guitar), David Blunden (harpsichord), Romina Lischka (viola da gamba) and Marian Minnen (cello and basse de violon). Delightful instrumental solos intersperse the vocal numbers: Blunden is exemplary in the Froberger Partita auff Die Mäyerin and Schenk’s virtuosic Sonata VI, L’Echo du Danube, is another gem. This is an immensely impressive recording and I look forward to their next release with impatience.

(Jonathan Wikeley, Early Music Today, December 2009)

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