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Inner Chambers: Royal Court Music of Louis XIV
Jacques-Martin HOTTETERRE (1674–1763)
Prelude in D (L’Art de Préluder, Op.7) (1719) [4:20]
François COUPERIN (1668–1733)
Premier Concert Royal in G (1722) [11:03]
Jacques-Martin HOTTETERRE
Airs et brunettes: Rochers, je ne veux point ‘Air de Bacilly’ (c.1721) [2:35]
Marin MARAIS (1656–1728)
Pièces de viole, troisième livre – Suite (1711) [14:03]
Michel Pignolet de MONTÉCLAIR (1667–1737)
Brunètes ancienes et modernes: Je sens naître en mon cœur (1725) [1:56]
Deuxième Concert – Suite (1720) [14:59]
Jean-Baptiste LULLY (1632–1687)
Trios pour le coucher du Roi, LWV35: Chaconne* (1665) [3:38]
Les Ordinaires [Leela Breithaupt (transverse flute and director), Erica Rubis (viola da gamba), David Walker (theorbo)] with Allison Nyquist (baroque violin)*
rec. 2016, Primary Sound Studios, Bloomington, Indiana, USA.
Texts and translations included.
Reviewed as 24/96 download with pdf booklet from
NAXOS 8.573814 [52:34]  

This CD would serve as a fine introduction to the quieter, more reflective aspect of French baroque music. There’s none of the drama of Rameau and Lully, the latter represented only by a short chaconne to send Louis XIV to sleep, the former not represented at all, and nothing here by my favourite composer of the period, Marc Antoine Charpentier, whose music both sacred and secular, is also more dramatic than anything on this programme.

There are plenty of other recordings of such music, by individual composers or as anthologies, however, which makes this new CD all the more welcome, especially at the price: a similar collection, which I welcomed with some reservations in 2008, costs twice as much (Musique à Versailles, Trio Marie-Antoinette, Campanella Musica C130090 – review).

With small forces employed, too, just two players in some of the pieces, the performances are as refined, not to say restrained, as the music. That doesn’t mean that the playing is not accomplished – far from it. Don’t misinterpret the title of the group: players, physicians or chaplains ‘in ordinary’ were so called because they were regular members of the inner circle at the French and English courts. Hence the title of the programme: this was chamber music in the strictest sense of the term, intended for the inner apartments of the king.

The performances here, on copies of period instruments, are well attuned to the music and the recording does the playing justice by being unobtrusive. Leela Breithaupt’s notes are brief but to the point. This is my first encounter with Les Ordinaires or any of its members, or with Allison Nyquist who joins them for the royal lullaby at the end, but I hope that it will not be the last.

If you are looking for a collection of the more public music of the Sun King’s court, Ensemble Correspondances and Sébastien Daucé reconstruct the ballet in which Louis XIV created his image by dancing the role of the Sun in 1653, on Le Concert Royal de la Nuit (Harmonia Mundi – review). I thought that I had reviewed that, but the search engine doesn’t turn it up, so let me recommend it now, belatedly. There’s also a larger collection, Les menus Plaisirs du Roi on ten CDs at budget price (Harmonia Mundi – review). Not all suppliers seem to stock the latter, which suggests that stocks are running down, so snap this up while you can if it appeals.

I’ve mentioned the Naxos price advantage over similar collections. Now that their CDs cost almost twice the £3.99 for which they could once be found in Woolworths, however, downloading is a tempting alternative. In this case, the slightly short playing time means that, who charge per second, offer the CD-quality 16-bit for $5.26 and the superior 24-bit for a tempting $7.89.

The 2-CD album Le Concert Royal de la Nuit sells for around £16 but here, too, there are savings to be had by downloading: offer 16-bit CD-quality for $13.81 and superior 24-bit for $16.11, both with pdf booklet.

Don’t go for the new Naxos CD, then, if you are looking to hear the splendours of Louis XIV’s court, but this collection of music for his private delectation makes a very welcome alternative to other more extrovert collections.

Brian Wilson


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