Reviews – CDs
Nicolas Vallet: Le Secret des Muses
Nigel North, lute
ATMA Classique ACD2 2333
One may quibble about the ideal lutenist for Dowland, but to my thinking no one is better suited to perform the music of Nicolas Vallet than Nigel North. His elegant, incisive, thumb-out playing of the 10-course lute seems to fit Vallet’s works like a glove. He expressed a personal affinity for Vallet’s compositional style during a recent LSA seminar performance.
The affinity of an Englishman for a Parisian transplanted to Amsterdam seems to be reciprocal. Vallet included English players in his well-documented lute quartets. He arranged English ballad tunes as well as a version of Dowland’s Earl of Essex galliard. He favors “English” forms such as the pavane, galliard, fantasy and complaint (though the latter is not really a “form”), and he seems at least as much influenced by the styles of Dowland and Robert Johnson as by continental composers.
Much of Vallet’s music is dance-oriented, including ballets, courantes, bourrées and voltes, and since he was the proprietor of a dance school, it is likely they were indeed meant for dancing, but pieces such as his Pavanne en form de complaint show a depth of feeling comparable to that which the finest English composers devoted to stylized dance forms. The most dance-like pieces, meanwhile, recall the masque tunes of Robinson.
In all, the recording reveals a composer whose work is varied, polished and at times profound, and a performer who has found his match.