The Palais-Royale was originally the home of Richelieu and on
his death in 1624 it was left to the crown. It passed to Louis
XIV’s nephew Philippe II, son of the Duke of Orléans, and ranked
with the Louvre and the Tuileries are one of the three most important
palaces in Paris. The theatre of the palace was a Parisian operatic
base for over a century until the theatre burnt down in 1763.
When Philippe inherited
the theatre there was a desire to escape the relative turgidity
of court life. In effect, musically speaking, this meant a demand
for Italian music and for a progressive mating of the indigenous
with the foreign styles, something that was clearly evident
in English music of the time. As a programmatic restoration
of the music to be heard at that time and in the Palais-Royale
this disc has chosen one of the Duke’s own little pieces and
surrounded it with more substantial fare by Pierre Gillier,
Michele Mascitti and Nicolas Bernier.
We hear selections
from Gillier’s Livre d’airs et de simphonies meslés de quelques
fragmens d’opéra – seven little pieces in all. There’s some
fine fiddling here with adept ornamentation. The Air du Violon
en Rondeau is especially captivating by virtue of its sheer
refinement and elegance. Sara Macliver sings Sombres Déserts
with reflective directness. Listening to the violin unfolding
the Chaconne in the second Prelude, with the well-balanced
and supportive harpsichord, makes one acknowledge the aptness
of the descriptive Tendrement.
Mascitti is represented
by two Violin Sonatas. The F major is drenched in the mountain
stream ethos of Corelli – and its fluid writing with once more
a well-balanced cello obbligato is excellently conveyed. There’s
especially touching gravity in the central movement. The companion
sonata is for two violins in A minor and is perhaps less arresting
and immediately impressive as a work, but is very cannily laid
out for the distribution of voice parts. Bernier’s La caffé
was written c.1703 and is a cantata in praise of – what else?
– coffee. It’s full of gracious curlicues and shows strong signs
of the Italian in its vocal writing.
The texts are in
French with English translations. There are typically adept
performances from another of ABC’s roster of baroque ensemble