MICHEL LAMBERT (1610-1696) wrote hundreds of such songs. Most of the 20 song collections he is known to have published have been lost, so the 330 surviving Lambert songs may be the tip of a Schubert-size iceberg. Lambert’s musical activities ranged widely – he was known as both a singer and a dancer – but his entire career hewed close to the circle around the royal family. He grew up as a choirboy in the chapel of Louis XIII’s brother the Duke of Orléans, and later counted Cardinal Richelieu, the most powerful man in the French government, among his early patrons. When Lambert’s daughter married Jean-Baptiste Lully, it placed Lambert close to the man whose personal connection with Louis XIV made him the most powerful musician in France. Lambert never composed an opera (perhaps realizing that it was politically wise not to intrude into the opera, where his son-in-law was nearly as absolute a ruler as the king was in France), but his “Stillness, Gloom, and Silence” and “Iris is Gone” show how well he could use instrumental and vocal resources to set a scene. Other songs explore the pastoral convention, with its rural settings, shepherds and shepherdesses, which so dominated the poetry written for affluent urban readers, and the pain of unrequited love, usually inflicted by a cruel beauty.
— Howard Posner plays lute and Baroque guitar and practices appellate law in Los Angeles.