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Court of the Sun King – The Glory of the French Baroque
Full details at end of review
rec. 1953-98
ERATO 2564 67523-9 [10 CDs: 12:08:33]

Experience Classicsonline



This set presents an interesting cross-section of works by composers associated with the court of the Sun King, Louis XIV of France. This energetic and enterprising monarch revered the arts for their own sake, as well as for their potential as a political and diplomatic tool. Whilst the esteem in which Lully was held by the King is well known but a number of other composers, such as Charpentier, Couperin, Marchand and Nivers, are also represented on this ten-disc set.

The performances presented are of rather variable quality. The set begins promisingly with a convincing account of Charpentier’s Te Deum, H46, by the Chorale de Jeunesses Musicales de France and the Orchestre de Chambre Jean-Francois Paillard: there is plenty of brightness in the instrumental sound, and the texture is full without straying into denseness. The solo vocal parts balance this sound admirably, and the ensemble has a good balance, the individual voices being sufficiently differentiated to allow for contrapuntal clarity, yet similar enough in timbre to blend. It is a shame, then, that this quality is not characteristic of the subsequent performances by the instrumental ensemble. The Te Deum by Lully that follows suffers from a lack of energy and incisiveness (a comparison with the performance by Musica Antiqua Köln is distinctly unfavourable as far as the French chamber orchestra is concerned); and the pulse, too, seems often to be on the front edge of the beat: slightly further back would have resulted in a more defined interpretation. Their performances on other discs of the set range from the reasonable to the disappointing: the Dialogus inter angelos et pastores Judeae in nativitatem Domini by Charpentier (CD2), for instance, is turgid and ponderous; and, although the ensemble does redeem itself somewhat by a brightly dramatic reading of Michel-Richard de Lalande’s Simphonies pour les Soupers du Roy (CD7), there is, even here, a certain paucity of imagination regarding variety of textures, voicings and dynamics in those sections that are repeated.

Indeed, imagination and drama are qualities that, sadly, are missing from too many of the performances on these discs. Charpentier’s Le Reniement de saint Pierre, in an account by the Chorale Philippe Caillard (CD4), lacks pace, drive and dramatic impetus – the listener is left to reconstruct the emotions inherent in the story from the barest of cues. The Leçons de ténèbres by Couperin, that precedes it, is scarcely better: a rather heavily slow-moving interpretation that has none of the streamlined vigour that is implied by the scoring. Lalande’s Trois leçons de ténèbres (CD5) also suffers from a lack of pace; and, in this case, this lack is compounded by an almost total absence of pulse or flow in the slower movements.

There are redemptions. The organist Marie-Claire Alain distinguishes herself in every one of her performances: the Livre d’orgue by Louis Marchand (CD3) is characterised by an effective use of registration, especially in the Dialogue; and the Suite du 2e ton, of the Livre contenant cent Pièces de tous les tons d’Eglise by Guillaume Gabrielle Nivers (CD6) is, again, striking and imaginative is its use of registration and is also incisive: rhythmically controlled, yet propulsive. The following Messe pour les Couvents de religieux et religieuses by Couperin is interestingly combined with Henry du Mont’s Messe du 6e ton, and the combination of unison chant (delivered with much refinement by the Compagnie Musicale Catalane) and solo organ allows for a most compelling contrast of texture and character.

The booklet notes give a thorough account of the place of music in the court of Louis XIV and interesting biographical information on the composers represented in the collection, together with details of the influences they had upon each others’ work. There are, however, occasional anomalies in the details given of the ensembles involved with various works; and I felt the details given of the recordings could have been more effectively laid out: it would have been useful, for instance, to have had a list, designed on a work-by-work basis, of the dates on which each work had been recorded.

In summary, then: although some performances on these discs are illuminating and insightful, they are, unfortunately, the exception, rather than the rule. Too many of these interpretations belie the life, vigour, enthusiasm and sheer delight in exploration that characterised the court of this most artistically exuberant of monarchs.

Em Marshall-Luck

 

Full tracklist

Marc-Antoine CHARPENTIER (1643-1704)
Te Deum, H146
Jean-Baptiste LULLY (1632-1687)
Te Deum
Marc-Antoine CHARPENTIER (1643-1704)
Magnificat, H79
Messe de minuit, H9
Dialogus inter angelos et pastores Judeae in nativitatem Domini, H420
Nicolas BERNIER (1665-1734)
Motet du Saint-Esprit
Louis MARCHAND (1669-1732)
Livre d’orgue, Livre I, Ier ton
Marc-Antoine CHARPENTIER (1643-1704)
Messe pour les trépassés, H2 (beginning)
Dies Irae, H12
Motet pour les trépassés “Miseremini mei”, H311
Messe pour les trépassés, H2 (conclusion)
Francois COUPERIN (1668-1733)
Lecons de ténèbres
Marc-Antoine CHARPENTIER (1643-1704)
Le Reniement de saint Pierre, H424
Jean GILLES (1668-1705)
Requiem
Michel-Richard DE LALANDE (1637-1726)
Trois lecons de ténèbres – 3e Lecon de Jeudy Saint
Guillaume Gabriel NIVERS (c.1632-1714)
Livre contenant cent Pièces de tous les tons d’Eglise – Suite de 2e ton
Nicolas de GRIGNY (1672-1703)
Messe “Conctipotens genitor Deus” – Il Gloria
Francois COUPERIN (1668-1733)
Messe à l’usage ordinaire des Paroisses
Messe pour les Couvents de religieux et religieuses
Michel-Richard DE LALANDE (1637-1726)
Simphonies pour les Soupers du Roy
Sacres solemnis – Hymne pour le Saint Sacrement
Francois COUPERIN (1668-1733)
Le Parnasse, ou l’Apothéose de Corelli
Jean-Francois DANDRIEU (1681/2-1738)
Trio Sonata in E minor, op.1 no.6
Michel DE LA BARRE (c.1675-1745)
Suite in E minor for Two Flutes
Élisabeth Jacquet DE LA GUERRE (1665-1729)
Sarabande in G major
Second Gigue in D minor
Francois COUPERIN (1668-1733)
Concert royal no.1 in G major
Jean-Henry D’ANGLEBERT (1629-1691)
Pièces de clavecin
Francois COUPERIN (1668-1733)
L’Apothéose de Lully
Jean-Philippe RAMEAU (1683-1764)
Premier Livre de Pièces de clavecin
Cinq Pièces pour clavecin seul
Francois COUPERIN (1668-1733)
L’Art de toucher le clavecin
Deuxième Livres de Pièces de clavecin, 6e Ordre
Jacques Champion DE CHAMBONNIÈRES (1601/2-1672)
Pavane
La Volte
Michel CORRETTE (1707-1795)
Prélude
La Fürstenberg
Joseph-Nicolas-Pancrace ROYER (c.1705-1755)
Pièces de clavecin
Jean-Henry D’ANGLEBERT (1629-1691)
Pièces de clavecin
Joseph Bodin DE BOISMORTIER (1689-1755)
Première Suite de pieces de clavecin, op.59
Louis COUPERIN (c.1626-1661)
Prélude in A minor
Branle de Basque
Gigue in C minor
Gaillarde
Sarabande et canaries
Francois COUPERIN (1668-1733)
Concert royal no.4
Deuxième Livre de pieces de clavecin, 9e Ordre
Troisième Livre de pieces de clavecin, 15e Ordre
Jean-Baptiste LULLY (1632-1687)
Isis
Amadis
Armide

Martha Angelici, Jocelyne Chamonin, Jennifer Smith, Francine Bessac, Bernadette Degelin, Edith Selig, Karine Rosat, Nadine Sautereau, Nicole Robin (sopranos); Jocelyne Chamonin, Micaëla Etcheverry (mezzos); Hanna Schaer (contralto); André Mallabrera, Zeger Vandersteene, Jean Nirouet, André Meurant (counter-tenors); Rémy Corazza, Louis Devos, Jean Caals, Jean-Jacques Lesueur, Jean Malray, John Elwes, Fernando Serafim, André Mallabrera (tenors); Georges Abdoun, Philippe Huttenlocher (baritones); Jacques Mars, Philippe Huttenlocher, Kurt Widmer, Goerges Abdoun, Michel Brodard, P-M Richez, Xavier Depraz, Roger Soyer (basses); Maurice André (trumpet); Maxence Larrieu, R. Cotton (flute); Huguette Fernandez, Philippe Lamacque (violin); R. Boulay (treble viol); Jean-Louis Charbonnier (viola da gamba); Bernard Fonteny (cello); Marie-Claire Alain, Maurice Duruflé, Anne-Marie Beckensteiner, Antoine Sibertin-Blanc, Laurence Boulay (organ); Robert Veyron-Lacroix, Anne-Marie Beckensteiner, Laurence Boulay, Françoise Lengellé (harpsichord); Chorale des Jeunesses Musicales de France, Ensemble Vocal “À Coeur Joie” de Valance, Gents Madrigaalkoor, Cantabile Gent, Ensemble Vocal Stéphane Caillat, Chorale Stéphane Caillat, Chorale Philippe Caillard, Les Chantres de la Chapelle, Compagnie Musicale Catalane, Orchestre de Chambre Jean-François Paillard, Musica Polyphonica
Gulbenkian Choir and Orchestra, Lisbon, Louis Martini, Jean-François Paillard, Louis Devos, Louis Frémaux, Michel Corboz, Philippe Caillard, Emmanuel Mandarin, Josep Cabré, Stéphane Caillat (directors)

rec. Chapelle Royale, Palace of Versailles, 1962 (CD6: 01-07; CD7: 18-24); Notre-Dame de Liban, February 1966 (CD8: 08-12), January 1984 (CD7: 01-07); Paris, 1972 (CD10: 01-06; 16-20); Igreja da Graça, Lisbon, July 1972 (CD3: 03-15); Église évangélique allemande (Evangelische Christuskirche), Paris, 1972 (CD9: 31), September 1977 (CD5: 14-23); Église Notre-Dame d’Auteuil & Église évangélique allemande (Evangelische Christuskirche), Paris, 1974 (CD9: 24-30; 32; 33); Chapel of the Lycée Gabriel Fauré, Tournon-sur-Rhone (CD1: 12-15); Église Saint-Clément, Watermael-Boitsfort, Brussels, April 1983 (CD2: 01-09); Cathédrale Sainte-Cécile d’Albi, April 1989 (CD6: 09); Cathédrale Saint-Pierre, Poitiers, September 1996 (CD6: 08), October – November 1998 (CD6: 10-24).
rec. March 1953 (CD1: 01-11); March 1956 (CD5: 01-13); 1960 (CD9: 01-23; CD10: 07-15); October 1960 (CD8: 01-07; 13-28); June 1961 (CD2: 10-15); December 1961 (CD2: 16-22) ADD / DDD

 


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