> Le Balet Comique de la Royne [PW]: Classical CD Reviews- Nov 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Lambert de BEAULIEU / Baltasar de BEAUJOYEULX:

Le Balet Comique de la Royne
Caroline Pelon - soprano (Thetys)
Pascal Bertin - countertenor (Mercure)
Ryland Angel - countertenor (Jupiter)
Antonio Abete - bass (Glaucus)
Students of the Centre de Musique Ancienne de Genève and the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Lyon
Ensemble Elyma/Directed by Gabriel Garrido
Recordings made in an undisclosed location in 1997




Gabriel Garrido’s Ensemble Elyma have been enjoying a long collaboration with the French label K617, producing recordings of many byways of the early baroque. These types of project show just how advanced is the state of government support for the arts in a country like France. Frequently, as in the case of this recording, there is a combined approach between ensemble, recording company, various festivals of early music and civic, regional or national government bodies. In the case of this recording the emphasis is on the musical heritage of Lorraine, and the recording appears to have been made in collaboration with the Festival D’Ambronay. The programme recreates the sumptuous festivities for the wedding of a favourite of King Henri III to one Marguerite de Vaudemont, half-sister of Queen Louise de Lorraine. This took place in 1581, two days after the coronation of Henri III in Reims Cathedral. The music has such striking resonances of the more famous intermedii to the play La Pellegrina that formed the high point of Florentine entertainment before the invention of opera, but this spectacular predates the more famous Florentine offering by nine years. It is a remarkable rediscovery by any standards. Like that work, there is a thin line of story, loosely Classical but filled with allegorical references to the newly married couple and their patron, the newly crowned king. The real reason for the work is the integrated display of music, poetry, dance and scenery.

Ensemble Elyma have produced a succession of these interesting recording projects, although the quality of performance has sometimes been rather variable. No such qualms exist in this case as Garrido has assembled a first class line-up of soloists and a large band of high quality players. The string and wind playing is uniformly exciting and well balanced and the added pair of harps and no less than five lutes gives great vitality to the continuo. Of the singers, the lion’s share of the work falls to the two countertenors, but the most interesting soloist is the soprano Caroline Pelon. Her sense of the musical flow of strophic song is assured and the quality of her voice is engaging, although she sounds disarmingly like a clone of Montserrat Figueras in the intensity of individual notes, the rapid vibrato added to the end of notes, and the dramatically snatched breathing.

The composition is in three "intermedes" but basically comes across as a diverting succession of solos, ensembles and choruses interspersed with instrumental sinfonias. The flow and the pacing are well controlled and the quality of the chorus belies the fact that it is largely composed of students from the early music departments of the Lyon and Geneva conservatories. There is youthful enthusiasm, but no roughness or lack of refinement. The work eventually becomes a typically French baroque sequence of dances, beginning with the last movement of the third "intermede" and being followed by an extended "Bal de Cour". This latter is made of French dances by Pierre-Francisque Caroubel. Most of these are in fact well known already as they were all included in Praetorius’ famous "Terpsichore" of 1612, of which there are many recordings. Hearing these pieces in an actual context does, however, give them an added interest, and the playing of them is excellent.

This is a well worthwhile disc of completely unfamiliar, but admirable music. The usual quality of K617 production is maintained, although the extensive booklet is, as usual with this label, rather confusing to follow and the English translations are somewhat pompous and verbose. However, full background information is given in French, English and German and all texts are translated, at least into English. Highly enjoyable.

Peter Wells

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