You get a better class of after-dinner entertainment from Les Arts Florissants. Forget laborious speeches or dodgy magic tricks, this ongoing series offers listeners the opportunity to eavesdrop on the kind of spontaneous singing and playing that helped the French nobility helped while away the time in the late-16th and early-17th centuries.

Les Arts Florissants
As with previous volumes, we meet the air de cour in all its guises, from the older style of intricate four and five-voice counterpoint (Claude Le Jeune’s Allons, allons gay gayment is the most characterful example, pitched somewhere between stage and chamber here) to dramatic scenas with instrumental support (Pierre Guedron’s Aux plaisirs conjures its pastoral, gather-ye-rosebuds scenario with playful urgency) and languorous solo songs like Guedron’s Quel espoir de guarir .

Five instrumentalists and five singers weave endless textural variety, enjoying the contrasts between the naughty, chattering comedy of Guedron’s Que dit-on au village? (more...