Your clickable banner could be here: details If you cannot see an advert click here.
rotating banners
Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger

Jean Baptiste LULLY (1632 – 1687)
Isis, L’opera de musiciens (extracts): Prologue; Duo des nyumphes; Choeur des trembleurs; Act 5, scene 1: Rondeau ‘Plainte de lo’; Act 3, scenes 3-5; Act 3, scene 6
Armide, Lopera des Dames (extracts): Ouverture; Act 2, scene 2: Duo d’Armide et Hidraot; Act 2, scene 3: Le Sommeil de Renaud; Act 3, scene 5: Monologue d’Armide; Act 5, scene 2: Passacaille
Michel-Richard DELALANDE (1657 – 1726)
Premier Caprice ou Caprice de Villers Cotterets

Chorale Caillard
Orchestre Jean-Francois Paillard/Jean Francois-Paillard
Recorded 1972, 1985
ERATO 2564 60578-2 [71.47]


Crotchet   AmazonUK   AmazonUS


The music on this record illustrates an interesting period in the history of taste and musical style. Recorded in 1972, the extracts from Lully’s operas ‘Isis’ and ‘Armide’ were probably important milestones when they first appeared, indications of the small amount of growing interest in the reputation of Lully and his compatriots. But unfortunately, taste and style have moved on greatly. Thanks mainly to the pioneering efforts of William Christie we now know much more about the style in which these operas should be performed.

The excerpts from ‘Isis’ includes the ‘choeurs des trembleurs’. This chorus, in which the choir expresses their intense cold through repeated notes and syllables, gained quite a reputation and it inspired the similar passage in Purcell’s ‘King Arthur’. The Act V, Scene 1 rondeau, ‘Plainte de Io’ is rather marred by the unnamed soprano’s excessive vibrato. And in the hunting scene from Act 3, there is distinct unsteadiness between the chorus and the orchestra. The excerpts from ‘Armide’ are similarly variable with the ‘Duo d’Armide et Hidraot’ marred both by the soprano’s vibrato and her tendency to shrillness in upper registers.

I am completely unable to put names to the soloists as the booklet does not deign to mention their names. For that matter, there is no libretto nor a proper summary of the action in the various scenes from the operas. So, if you want to know what is going on you must find a complete libretto.

The standard of orchestral playing is high, but unfortunately it is just not in style. The orchestral sound has a solidity and opacity which might be entirely admirable in later repertoire but sounds wrong here. I missed the transparency and lightness of later recordings. Even the faster pieces sound a little heavy and laboured because the essential bounce and rhythmical subtlety of the music is missing. This is a shame, as the orchestral playing is attractive. One just wishes they were playing something else. The chorus suffer from similar problems and combined they make the music sound too big boned. There is not much in the way of ornamentation and other stylistic nuances.

More of a reason for buying the record might be Delalande’s 1st Caprice. This comes from a recording of all three of Delalande’s Caprices that Paillard recorded in 1985. He already recorded them with his orchestra 20 years previously and when this recording first appeared Gramophone commented that the orchestral style had not changed much in the intervening period.

But there is much of interest in Delalande’s Caprices. Essentially suites, their importance lies in the lack of a supporting prop for the music; it is dependent neither on words nor on progressions of dance rhythms. Delalande became the Superintendent io the King’s Music when Lully died, and much of this music was written for performance at court occasions. The delightful music in the Caprice de Villers-Cotterets is an interesting example of the early stages of the development that symphonic music would take later in the 18th century.

I am honestly not sure why anyone would really want to buy this record unless it were super-budget price. If all the Delalande Caprices had been included then the disc would have the advantage of populating the rather sparse catalogue of Delalande’s music. One should not underestimate the importance of these performances, particularly the Lully, when they were first issued. They were important milestones in the history of both our discovery of the music of Lully and Delalande and our education in taste as to how the music should be performed. But Paillard’s performances of Lully have been vastly overtaken in the intervening years. This disc is mainly of interest as a historical document rather than library performances.

Robert Hugill

Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.