Jean-Philippe RAMEAU (1683-1764)
Le Temple de la Gloire Suite No. 1 [20:12]
Le Temple de la Gloire Suite No. 2 [20:01]
André GRÉTRY (1741-1813)
Suite of Ballet Music from the Operas [19:34]
Marc-Antoine CHARPENTIER (1634-1704)
Médée: Suite from the opera [19:19]
English Chamber Orchestra/Raymond Leppard
rec. Kingsway Hall, London, 1966. ADD
DECCA ELOQUENCE 480 2373 [61:46]

This is one of a pair of CDs of French baroque music played by the English Chamber Orchestra under the pioneering baton of Raymond Leppard. Again, the recording suffers from the same faults as its companion disc of suites by Lully and Campra (on Decca Eloquence 480 2374, previously reviewed by MusicWeb International).

Once more, it is unclear why Eloquence has chosen to release these Decca recordings. They were, after all, made a generation ago and have since been surpassed by subsequent developments in musical research and performance practice. The sound is dull and heavy, with an over-large orchestra playing on modern rather than period instruments. Most odd is the harpsichord, which has a curious bell-like sound that is persistently distracting.

The programme, too, is rather suspect. Rameau’s Le Temple de la Gloire is split into two suites – presumably because each appeared separately on two different albums. But here the truncation sounds artificial, and the movements are disordered. Although the playing is lively and impressive in places (the opening overture, which appears as the first movement of the second suite on track 10, is particularly fine), most of it is dense and laboured. Certainly it does not compare with the resounding triumph of Nicholas McGegan’s Le Temple de la Gloire with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra on Harmonia Mundi.

The suites made up of music from three of Grétry’s operas (L’Epreuve Villageoise, La Caravane du Caire and Céphale et Procris) and Charpentier’s Médée hardly fare much better. Both are artificially constructed. Grétry’s music already suffers from meagre orchestration. Leppard’s response is to pad it out by writing extra parts. But this has the effect of thickening the sound quality and further weakening its ‘authenticity’. The Médée suite is undistinguished and fails to give much sense of the narrative and intense drama of this gem of French baroque opera.

John-Pierre Joyce

Once more, it is unclear why Eloquence has chosen to release these Decca recordings