This is the first volume of what is planned as a pair of recordings
of Music for the Theatre from the baroque period. All three pieces
here fit the theatrical category, though the Rébel was originally
conceived as a symphonie
, with dance added later.
There was certainly room for a twenty-minute selection of music
from Lully’s opera-ballet Le bourgeois gentilhomme
between the single-movement Chaconne des Scaramouches
opens the Aradia Ensemble’s Music for the Sun King
and complete recordings on CD (Accord 4721522) and DVD (Alpha ALPHA700).
There’s a similar selection from Le Concert des Nations/Jordi Savall
on Alia Vox (AVSA9807) and an elderly Deutsche Harmonia Mundi budget-price
2-CD set coupled with Campra’s L’Europe Galante
Kevin Mallon takes his period-instrument Aradia players at quite a pace
through the opening track on that Naxos recording and, as that is a
recording that I play pretty frequently it has rather spoiled me for
other interpretations. Tempesta di Mare on the new recording play
with a much cleaner orchestral style but I’d rather have Mallon’s team
run the music a bit ragged – they decorate Handel with kazoos on another
recording – than have the music sound somewhat over-refined.
Jordi Savall and his team also give the music greater vigour than
you find on the new Chandos, not just in the Chaconne des scaramouches
but throughout the Suite, and I prefer their recording to Tempesta
di Mare, especially as it couples the Bourgeois Gentilhomme
suite with more delectable music by Lully, from Alceste
Le Divertissement Royal
The representation of chaos which opens Rébel’s Les Elémens
must be the most remarkable piece of music composed in the baroque
era, though you wouldn’t necessarily think so from the new recording.
On a recording like that by L’Orfeo Barockochester conducted by Michi
Gaigg (Phoenix 110, download only, or CPO7779142 – review
) or AAM/Christopher Hogwood on Decca L’Oiseau-Lyre
(see below) or Musica Antiqua Köln/Reinhard Goebel (see below) it’s
a six-minute roller-coaster ride of disharmony, gradually opening
up to harmony, representing chaos turning to order at the Creation.
Turn to Tempesta di Mare and the discords are still there but somehow
they all sound a little more genteel, as if God had tidied up the
jarring elements in a trice.
The Hogwood recording forms part of the limited-edition budget-price
set The Baroque Era
(4786753, 50 CDs, or two 25-CD downloads)
which I made Bargain
of the Month
and the Goebel also comes in a multi-disc set (DG
Archiv 4791045, 55 CDs). Both can also be downloaded separately.
That leaves the Marais Suite from Alcyone
and here again
the chief competition comes from Jordi Savall on a recent reissue
containing all four of the Suites d’airs ŕ jouer
made from this work (Alia Vox SACD AVSA9903 – review
Johan van Veen would have liked that recording to have been rather
more incisive and it certainly leans a little more to the sedate than
would be the case from these performers now. Savall actually takes
his time over the overture a little more than Tempesta di Mare but
still sounds more positive overall.
By the time that I came to the Marais Suite I had warmed a little
more to the Chandos album, especially as the competition is less strong,
though even here I would have welcomed a little more oomph. The recording
places the players rather more backward than on most of the comparative
recordings that I have referred to and that may be part of the reason
for my reaction. I listened to both the 24-bit and mp3 downloads
from theclassicalshop.net and while I’m sure that both give a faithful
picture of the performers I would have welcomed hearing them sound
I have not been alone in having similar reservations about some
of Tempesta di Mare’s earlier recordings for Chandos – see my review
of their second Fasch recording, CHAN0783 and Johan van Veen’s review
of its predecessor volume.
It may well be that these most civilised and beautifully played
performances will appeal to you more than they did to me and I suggest
trying them out when they appear on Naxos Music Library or Qobuz.
After all, the court of Le Roi soleil
was an extremely civilised
place in most respects. It was also a place with insufficient toilet
facilities, so the courtiers had to relieve themselves in the corridors.
Tempesta di Mare show you the civilised face but the other recordings
that I mention show a bit more of the rough that went with the smooth,
though fortunately not the odour. Brian Wilson