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Jean-Baptiste LULLY (b.1632 Florence - d.1687 Paris) L'ORCHESTRE DU ROI SOLEIL - Symphonies, Overtures, and Airs à jouer   Le Concert des Nations directed by Jordi Savall. Alia Vox AV 9807 [64:19]

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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.


Ian Lace


Ian Lace

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