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Music of the French Masters - Music of the Warsaw Castle
Jean-Baptiste LULLY (1632-1687)
Suite from the opera Armide LWV71 (1686) [19.33]
François COUPERIN (1668-1733)
Sonata en Quatour La Sultane (c.1693) [9.57]
Marin MARAIS (1656-1728)
Suite from the opera Ariane et Bacchus (1696) [13.06]
Michel CORRETTE (1707-1795)
Concerto in D major Le Phénix (c.1738) [8.44]
André CAMPRA (1660-1744)
Suite from the opera Tancrède (1702) [13.36]
Martyna Pastuszka (violin), Krysztof Firlus (viola da gamba), {oh!} Orkiestra Historyczna
rec. live, Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra Hall, Katowice, Poland, 23 October 2015 (Lully, Marias, Campra); Great Assembly Hall, Royal Castle, Warsaw, Poland, 22 March 2016 (Couperin, Corrette
DUX 1382 [64.57]

Essentially this is a disc of extracts from two concerts given by the curiously named {oh!} or Orkiestra Historyczna, a Polish period instrument band. Their choice of headline name looks so much like a print-coding error message that I had to look them up to be sure I was not mistaken. It is at least distinctive! These musicians are very skilled and include the gamba player Krysztof Firlus about whom I was so enthusiastic in a recent review of Gamba Sonatas on Dux 1471. The two different concerts are clearly audible, the one in the castle being more closely miked and using a smaller band.

The music of Lully for his great opera Armide is the best known of the items and, partly as a result of its liveliness and its percussion, is more attractive listening. Lully was very much a master of the operatic stage and if these seven movements encourage listeners to try out the entire opera it will have done a fine job. The smaller suite by Lully's protégé Marin Marais from his opera Ariane et Bacchus is not equally appealing, indeed I found it somewhat dour by comparison. I am impressed by Marais' music for viol but get the impression that he was not so enthused by the more public requirements of the opera. He seems to have written few and does not appear much in the history of Baroque opera. Campra's suite is more attractive, as might be expected from a considerably more productive, indeed inventive composer of stage music. Between Lully and Rameau Campra looms large.

The short Sonata en Quatour by Couperin, though the product of a major figure, is not of his best. Corrette's short concerto Le Phénix is most entertaining and gives the lower strings a lot of work to do. These pieces make up the CD to just over an hour and give the solo players a chance to show their skills. I cannot say this is an essential purchase but if this sort of French Baroque music is your thing, you will enjoy expanding your knowledge of some lesser known music in these lively performances. The engineers have done a good job of providing detail and space. The notes are fairly informative but the English translation leaves something to be desired.

Dave Billinge

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