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Splendeurs de Versailles - Music in the Royal Court of Versailles
Le Poème Harmonique, Café Zimmermann, Capriccio Stravagante/Skip Sempé
rec. 1999-2013
Sung texts and translations are available on the Alpha website
ALPHA CLASSICS 260 [10 CDs: 10:47:14]

I enjoy the music of the French Baroque and thus have many recordings and books related to it. I have in the past given a talk on the subject at the local recorded music society featuring the majority of the composers presented in this box set as well as many of the pieces. I would say that this box, which is made up from both the Alpha and Zig-Zag Territoires back catalogues, would make an ideal starting point for anyone wishing to investigate this interesting and varied period of musical development.

As with all sets like this, there are both hits and misses, and I would like to start with the latter first. It is a great shame that the most famous work here, Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s Te Deum, which was recorded in the Chapelle Royale du Chateau de Versailles, suffers from an over-reverberant acoustic. This makes for a lack of clarity and this is not helped by the choice of tempo. The famous opening Prelude, well known as the fanfare to Eurovision, sounds rushed, whilst other sections are stilted. This is my fifth recording of this work, and whilst there is no doubt that it is exciting, it can sound a little like martial music at times. It can’t compare with my favourite recording conducted by Ivor Bolton on Teldec (0630-12465-2) which is exciting and which has a clarity that lets the music shine through. The accompanying piece, Lully’s Te Deum, fares little better. The other recording to use the venue - Louis-Nicolas Clérambault’s wonderful Miserere and François Couperin’s Leçons de Ténèbres - comes off a little better. Perhaps this is because smaller forces are used but there are still times when the echo of the previous word can still be heard as the singers start the next. This does make for quite an atmospheric recording though, giving it a real sense of being at a live concert.

The first disc in the set could be said to be an ideal introduction to the set and to the French Baroque in general. With no fewer than nine composers and a varied array of musical styles and genres on display, one could not wish for more. It brings to mind the soundtrack of Tous les Matins du Monde (AVSA 9821) in its variety. This makes for a worthy opener with a performance and interpretation to match - a real winner.

The second disc offers the listener the only music in the set by Estienne Moulinié, a native of Languedoc. He gained a position as court musician and composer to Gaston Duc d’Orléans, the younger brother of the king, Louis XIII. The only music I knew by him was on a Harmonia Mundi disc entitled Meslange pourla Chapelle de Gaston d’Orléans (HMC902194) which I have enjoyed. His music reflects the changing character of French music in the seventeenth century, but also from further afield, especially Spain. This Spanish influence can clearly be heard in his l’Humaine Comédie a collection of lute songs and ballet music in which the influence of Italianate styles can also be found. This is one of my favourite discs in the whole set and certainly one of the most played discs.

Disc three offers the listener a collection of Airs by Lully, which in this case takes the form of a splendid collection of eleven orchestral excerpts from his stage works including Cadmus, Phaeton and Armide. These are brilliantly performed by Café Zimmermann. Their panache makes me wish that Lully, arguably the most important musical figure of the day in France was represented more extensively in this set. Their performance shows the great breadth of musical styles of which Lully was capable, not only the Italianate aspect of the country of his birth, but also the prevalent style in his adoptive country. The final five tracks are, by total contrast, fugues for organ by Lully’s almost exact contemporary Jean-Henry D’Anglebert. He was regarded as one of the most foremost composers of keyboard music of the day. A native of Bar-le-Duc in Lorraine, his music shows the influence of Jacques Champion de Chambonnières, who is thought to have been his teacher, and also of Louis Couperin, the first real notable member of this illustrious musical family. The fugues are energetic in nature and are superbly played by Café Zimmermann’s keyboardist Céline Frisch. D’Anglebert and Frisch are reunited on disc nine which is devoted to the composer’s works for harpsichord. The disc presents not only two of his harpsichord suites, those in G Major and minor, but also a selection of his arrangements and paraphrases of Lully’s theatre music. This is a thoughtful and well considered performance, making for a very attractive and well filled disc, especially as the various influences upon the development of D’Anglebert’s music can be mapped.

The remaining four discs of this set are devoted to the music of Marc-Antoine Charpentier, a composer that I have read up. There are a great many discs of his music, showing that there is a lot more to this composer than the famous prelude to the Eurovision song contest. Discs five and six give us a collection of motets and psalms, many composed for the future Louis XIV, and expand on the standard set by his wonderful Te Deum. In some ways disc seven is the most interesting of the four discs, entitled Tristes Déserts. Here we have a CD devoted to his songs and stage music. Non, non, je ne l’aime plus and the Les Stances du Cid shine but it is the Epitaphium Carpentarii. That made the biggest impression on me. At over sixteen minutes long, this piece, which is new to me, with its two voices combined with lute and organ makes a fitting memorial work. The disc concludes with six excerpts from his setting of the Orpheus legend, Orphée Descendant aux Enfers, a wonderful work that I only came to know in recent years. This leaves disc eight, which after a selection of instrumental and orchestral music gives us Sancti Dei per fidem or Pour plusieurs martyrs, a marvellous motet for solo bass in which Stephan MacLeod puts in an exceptional performance. This is followed by more orchestral pieces before the final three offerings on this disc. His Première Leçons de Ténèbres was composed for solo voice and ensemble. Here MacLeod once again shines, bringing out all the emotions of the Easter mysteries. The beauty of the singing and ensemble work make it a must for all fans of Marc-Antoine Charpentier; this set is almost worth it for this disc alone.

Even taking into account the reverberant acoustic of the Chapelle Royale du Chateau de Versailles, which does spoil the music a little, this set is well worth the modest investment. It offers a varied programme of wonderful music presented by performers who have obviously invested a lot of themselves in their interpretations. The essay is brief being a truncated version of the original booklet notes by the likes of Catherine Cessac, a world authority on Marc-Antoine Charpentier. The result remains an ideal introduction to the world of the French baroque, an area which is often overlooked by listeners and even by devotees of the baroque style. Sung texts and translations are available on the Alpha website.

Stuart Sillitoe

CD 1 [68:43]
Jean-Baptiste LULLY (1632-1687)
Psyché: Ouverture
Jean Henri D'ANGLEBERT (1628-1691)
Pièces de clavecin, Suite No. 2 in G Minor: Prélude
Michel LAMBERT (1610-1696)
Vos mépris chaque jour
Jacques Champion CHAMBONNIÈRES (c.1601-c.1672)
Sarabande in G Major
Jean-Baptiste LULLY
Le bourgeois gentilhomme: Marche pour la Cérémonie des Turcs
Pièces de clavecin, Suite No. 1 in G Major: Prélude
Michel LAMBERT: Ombre de mon amant
Ombre de mon amant
Jean-Baptiste LULLY arr. Jean Henri D'ANGLEBERT
Suite No. 2 in G Minor: V. Passacaille d'Armide
Gaspard LE ROUX (c.1660-1707) Pièces de clavessin
Gigue in G Major
Jean-Baptiste LULLY
Le bourgeois gentilhomme: Reprise de la Marche pour la Cérémonie des Turcs
André CAMPRA (1660-1744)
L'Europe galante, Act III: Sommeil
Louis COUPERIN (1621-1661)
Prélude in C Major
Passacaille in C Major
Jacques Champion CHAMBONNIÈRES
L'Europe galante, Act V: Aria: Mes yeux, ne pourrez-vous jamais
François COUPERIN (1668-1733)
Pièces de clavecin, Book 2: 9eme Ordre: Allemande a 2 clavecins
Marin MARAIS (1656-1728)
Pièces de viole, Book 2: Les Voix Humaines
Suite No. 3 in D Minor, Prélude
Sarabande in D Minor
Jean-Baptiste LULLY
Le bourgeois gentilhomme: Quels spectacles charmants
Amadis, Act V: Chaccone
Capriccio Stravagante.
Skip Sempé
rec. Eglise Notre-Dame Du Liban, Paris, France, July 2001

CD 2 [69:46]
Étienne MOULINIÉ (1599-1676)
Concert de différents oyseaux
Rompez les charmes du sommeil, "Air de la Ridicule"
Fantaisie première pour les violes
Espagnol, je te supplie
Ojos, sir quereis vivir
Por la verde orilla
Chanson gasconne: L'auzel ques sul bouyssou
Non ha sotto il ciel
Seguir non più voglio
Tout se peint de verdure
Entrées instrumentales du ballet du Mariage de Pierre de Provence avec la belle Maguelone
I. Entree de Son Altesse
II. Combat de piques
III. Combat de rondaches
IV. Combat a cheval
V. Entrée de Pierre de Provence
VI. Pavane la Ridicule
VII. Les Vieux Gaulois
Air du Juif Errant
Jalouse envie
Air à boire
Le sort me fait souffrir
Le Poème Harmonique
Vincent Dumestre
rec. Chapelle de l’Hôpital Notre-Dame de Bon Secours, Paris, September and November 1999

CD 3 [43:46]
Jean-Baptiste LULLY
Cadmus et Hermione, LWV 49: Overture
Roland, LWV 65, Act I: Ritournelle des Fées
Phaëton, LWV 61: Petit Air pour les mesmes
Armide, LWV 71
Air I
Air II
Phaëton, LWV 61, Act II: Chaconne
Le carnaval, mascarade royale LWV 36: Overture
Atys, LWV 53, Act III: Les songes agréables
La naissance de Vénus, LWV 27, Act II: Sarabande Dieux des Enfers
Le triomphe de l'amour, LWV 59: Air d'Apollon
Armide, LWV 71, Act V: Passacaille
5 Fugues et un quatuor sur le Kyrie
Fugue grave
Fugue No. 2
Fugue No. 3
Fugue No. 4
Fugue No. 5
Café Zimmermann
Céline Frisch (organ)
Rec. Chapelle de l’Hôpital Charles Nicolle – Rouen, France, November 2004

CD 4 [55:34]
Marc-Antoine CHARPENTIER (1643-1704)
Te Deum, H. 146
Te Deum laudamus
Te aeternum Patrem
Te per orbem terrarum
Tu, devicto mortis aculeo
Tu ergo quaesumus, famulis tuis subveni
Aeterna fac cum sanctis tuis
Dignare Domine - Fiat misericordia
In te, Domine speravi
Jean-Baptiste LULLY
Te Deum, LWV 55
Te Deum laudamus
Tibi omnes angeli
Pleni sunt caeli et terra
Patrem immensae majestatis
Tu rex gloriae, Christe
Tu ad dexteram Dei sedes
Te ergo quaesumus, famulis tuis subveni
Salvum fac populum tuum, Domine
Dignare, Domine
In te Domine speravi
Chœur Capella Cracoviensis
Le Poème Harmonique
Vincent Dumestre
rec. Chapelle Royale du Chateau de Versailles, France, March 2013

CD 5 [67:29]
Precatio pro filio, H. 166, "Deus judicium tuum"
Louis MARCHAND (1669-1732)
Fugue sur les anches
Sola vivebat in antris, H. 373
Organ Works, Book 1: Fond d'orgue
Supplicatio pro defunctis ad beatam virginem, H. 328
Organ Works, Book 1: Tierce en taille
Quemadmodum desiderat cervus, H. 174
Elevation, H. 248, "O salutaris hostia"
Organ Works, Book 1: Fugue
Gratiarum actiones ex sacris codicibus excerptae pro restituta serenissimi galliarum delphini salute, H. 326
Ensemble Pierre Robert
Frédéric Desenclos (organ, director)
rec. Tongres, Belgium, September 2007

CD 6 [63:31]
Prelude pour ce qu'on voudra, H. 521
Antienne pour les Vêpres de l'Assomption de la vierge: Apres Laetatus sum (In odorem unguentor um), H. 51
Psalmus David 127us, H. 178, "Beati omnes"
Elevation, H. 274, "O sacramentum pietatis"
Pie Jesu, H. 427
Psalmus David 136us, H. 170, "Super flumina Babylonis"
Élisabeth JACQUET DE LA GUERRE (1665-1729)
Trio Sonata in G Minor
Gratiarum actiones pro restituta regis christianissimi sanitate anno 1686, H. 341, "Circumdederunt me dolores"
Magdalena lugens voce sola cum symphonia, H. 343, "Sola vivebat in antris"
Motet du saint sacrement pour un reposoir, H. 328, "Supplicatio Pro Defunctis”
Ensemble Correspondances
Sébastien Daucé
No recording details given.
CD 7 [74:52]
Tristes déserts, sombre retraite, H. 469
Sans frayeur dans ce bois, H. 467
Non, non, je ne l'aime plus, H. 455
Amour vous avez beau redoubler mes alarmes, H. 445
Rendez-moi mes plaisirs, H. 463
Oiseaux de ces bocages, H. 456
Quoi! je ne verrai plus, H. 461
Epitaphium Carpentarij, H. 474
Airs on stanzas from Le Cid, H. 457-459
Celle qui fait tout mon tourment, H. 450
Auprès du feu l'on fait l'amour, H. 446
Veux-tu, compère Grégoire, H. 470a
Beaux petits yeux d'écarlate, H. 448
Ruisseau qui nourris dans ce bois, H. 466
Orphée descendant aux enfers, H. 471
Recitative: — (Orphée)
Air: Effroyables enfers où je conduis mes pas … (Orphée)
Duet: Quelle douce harmonie a frappé mon oreille
Air: Vos plus grands criminels … (Orphée)
Duet: Ne cherchons plus d'où vient cette tendresse … - Trio: Hélas, Rien n'est égal au bonheur des amants …
Il Seminario Musicale
Gérard Lesne
L’Abbaye de St Michel en Thierache, France, October 2006

CD 8 [65:38]
Offerte, H. 514
Antienne, H. 532
Symphonie in G Minor, H. 529
Ouverture pour le sacre d'un évêque, H. 536
Apres Confitebor: Antienne in D Minor, H. 516
Pour plusieurs martyrs: motet a voix seule sans accompagnement, H. 361, "Sancti Dei per fidem"
Pour un reposoir: Ouverture des que la procession parait, H. 523
Ouverture pour le sacre d'un évêque, H. 537
Offerte non encore executée, H. 522
Ouverture pour l'église, H. 524
Antienne, H. 526
Pre Leçon de Ténèbres du Mercredy Saint, H. 120
Pre Leçon de Ténèbres du Jeudy Saint, H. 121
Pre Leçon de Ténèbres du Vendredy Saint, H122
Stephan MacLeod (bass)
Arte dei Suonatori
Alexis Kossenko
rec. Monastery Opactwo Cystersów, Poland, August 2011

CD 9 [71:49]
Pièces de clavecin, Suite No. 1 in G Major
Courante et double de la Courante
Courante No. 2
Courante No. 3
Gigue No. 2
Chaconne Rondeau
Lully - Suite in G Major: I. Ouverture de Cadmus (arr. of Cadmus et Hermione)
Lully - Suite No. 1 in G Minor: II. Ritournelle des Fées de Rolland (arr. of Roland, Act V Scene 1)
Lully - Suite in G Major: IV. Chaconne de Phaeton (arr. of Phaeton, Act II Scene 5)
Pièces de clavecin, Suite No. 2 in G Minor
Courante No. 2
Lully - Suite No. 1 in G Minor: III. Sarabande Dieux des Enfers (arr. of La naissance de Vénus)
Lully - Suite No. 1 in G Minor: I. Ouverture de la Mascarade (arr. of Le carnaval, mascarade royale)
Lully - Les Sourdines d'Armide (arr. of Armide, Act II Scene 4)
Lully - Les Songes agréables d'Atys (arr. of Atys, Act III Scene 4)
Lully - Air d'Apollon du Triomphe de l'Amour (arr. of Le triomphe de l'amour)
Lully - Passacaille d'Armide (arr. of Armide, Act V Scene 2)
Céline Frisch (harpsichord)
rec. Cathédrale de Maguelone, France, July 2004

CD 10 [65:03]
Miserere mei Deus
Quoniam iniquitatem meam
Asperges me hyssopo
Averte faciem tuam
Docebo iniquinos
Quoniam si voluisses sacrificium
Première Leçon de Ténèbres Pour Mercredy
Incipit Lamentatio Hieremiae prophetae
Beth. Plorans ploravit in nocte
Ghimel. Migravit Juda
Daleth. Viae Sion lugent
He. Facti sunt hostes
Jerusalem, convertere ad. Dominum Deum tuum
Deuxième Leçon De Ténèbres Pour Mercredy
Vau. Et egressus est a filia Sion omnis decor ejus
Zain. Recordata est Jerusalem
Heth. Peccatum peccavit Jerusalem
Teth. Sordes ejus
Jerusalem, convertere ad. Dominum Deum tuum
Troisième Leçon De Ténèbres Pour Mercredy
Jod. Manum suam misit hostis ad
Caph. Omnis populus
Lamed. O vos omnes
Mem. De excelso misit
Nun. Vigilavit
Jerusalem, convertere ad. Dominum Deum tuum
Le Poème Harmonique
Vincent Dumestre
rec. Chapelle Royale du Chateau de Versailles, France, November 2010 and November 2013



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