Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme
Le Divertissement Royal
Chaccone de l'Amour médicin
Here is another magnificent recording by Le Concert des Nations directed
by Jordi Savall - this time concentrating on Lully's music for the court
of the 'Sun King', Louis XIV. As Philippe Beaussant says in his eloquently
written notes, Louis had a genuine and discerning love for all the arts,
but especially for music and dance. He gave his artists almost unlimited
resources with which to create their works - and he was especially munificent
towards Lully. Lully was Italian by birth, temperament and training (despite
his arrival in Paris at an early age) but French by adoption and he assimilated
the artistic tastes and ideas of his second homeland.
Court ballet was one of the essential forms of French music. Lully, the Italian,
was to breathe fresh air into it, giving it greater vigour and technical
precision and above all new horizons. Lully developed the ballet to reflect
the evolution of the King himself, endowing it with ever more grandeur and
brilliance. His collaboration with Molière gave rise to the mixed
genre of comédie-ballet. This new genre was to have a decisive influence
in expanding choreographic art through the dimension of drama.
Louis' court band, known as the French Band of Twenty-Four Violins, constituted
the first orchestra in the modern sense of the word - i.e. one in which the
permanent distribution of instruments precedes and determines the composition
of musical works. A hard core of strings was flanked by oboes and if required
by all the instruments of the Chamber. Thus Lully had an incredibly rich
sound palette to work with: as many strings as he could wish for, virtuoso
flautists, the full range of oboes, all manner of percussion instruments,
the brass section, keyboard instruments, lutes, theorboes and guitars.
Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme was the apotheosis of the comédie-ballet.
Jordi Savall's players deliver brilliant crisply articulated readings of
the eight short numbers comprising the suite and heighten their colour. The
numbers' titles indicate their style: for instance Turkish Ceremony, Dance
of the Nations, The Spanish Airs (or of the gypsies).
Le Divertissement Royale is another facet of King Louis' court music with
the emphasis this time, on the ceremonial with lots of pomp and imposing
flourishes; but there are quieter numbers too where the texture thins and
the number of instruments are reduced --even to solo players -- to give a
sense of contrasting intimacy.
With Alceste, we reach a peak of sophistication. It illustrates
how opéra à la français took shape. "Choreography
which resulted from the fusion of ballet and tragedy, played a key role in
the work, developing the full potential of court ballet: pure dance music
(minuet, marches, Air des Démons), vast choreographic scenes
(Rondeau pour la Gloire, Fête infernale), descriptive
music for pantomime and dance (Les Vents) and grand, lyrically evocative
funeral music. The sense of theatre is heightened with two bands of brass
one on-stage and another echoing its music off-stage in Echos and
Jordall uses a wind machine to heighten the atmosphere of Les Vents.
A glorious album with music that sounds grand and big in every sense.