This site presents a complete facsimile of the "Brunetes ou Petits Airs Tendres" edited and arranged by Christophe Ballard in three volumes published by him in 1703, 1704 and 1711.
Taken together these three octavo volumes represent a formidable collection of late 17th and early 18th century french popular song.
Ballard introduces the first volume with the song that gave the 'Brunetes' their name. The omnipresent shepherd Tircis laments 'Ah! petite Brunete, Ah! tu me fait mourir!'.
In compiling these collections Ballard drew heavily on his own companies extensive back catalogue of works published during the 17th century as well as from collections by such authors as Brossard, Bacilly, Bousset, Dubuisson et Sicard.
His arrangements revised the original vocal bass lines to adapt them to continuo realisation or supplied new ones where they were absent. They also move the songs away from their often modal origins to align them better with contemporary taste. (cf Elissa Poole, the Brunetes and their Sources. Details in the bibliography
An interesting aspect of the collections is that they were clearly widely used at the time as basic repertoire for teaching singing. Contemporary instrumental tutors also draw heavily on them as an almost inexhaustible reservoir of simple attractive melodies.
These songs remained popular well into the 18th century when a composer of the stature of Montéclair
could still write movingly of their simple unaffected charm in the introduction to his own collection of arrangements
Today they still form an enjoyable and instructive introduction to french music of the period while the embellished second verses are of great interest for the insight they offer into contemporary vocal ornamentation.