117; 05/2016

Les Accords Nouveaux III: François Dufaut, Sigrun Richter, lute, Ambitus 96956

Sigrun Richter continues her survey of 17th century lute music with a disc devoted to the elusive François Dufaut (c.1604–70). Richter valiantly sets out what little is known of his life, including several laudatory mentions in letters by Constantijn Huygens, but has to conclude that his biography leaves many unanswered questions. Yet Dufaut and his music were held in the highest esteem, with pieces found in 90 lute manuscripts from across Europe and stretching as far as the mid 18th century.

Richter presents a set of suites drawn together from various sources. Most are in the standard baroque D-minor tuning, but two of the suites are in earlier transitional tunings, whose sonorities are pleasingly exploited by Dufaut. One or two of the pieces, such as the sober 'Tombeau de M. Blancrocher' from the Saizenay manuscript, display the 'very grave and learned' character ascribed to Dufaut by Mary Burwell in her manuscript lute tutor, but these are well balanced by light-footed courantes and frisky gigues.

The final pieces are a homage to Dufaut by Jacques Gallot le Vieux, taken from his Pièces de Luth and found also in Saizenay. The F sharp minor tonality (named by Gallot as the Ton de la chevre) comes as a sharp contrast to the preceding B flat major, and the closing 'Sommeil de Dufaut' is equally arresting, covering four different time signatures in the course of an 8-line piece. Maybe it was intended as a microcosm of Dufaut's styles. Sigrun Richter plays with authority and a sensitivity which brings out the best in the music. An enjoyable disc.

Peter Martin