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Le Sacre Royal de Louis XIV
A musical reconstruction of the Coronation Ceremony of Louis XIV
Reconstructed by Sébastien Daucé, assisted by Thomas Leconte
Les Pages du Centre de musique baroque de Versailles; Ensemble Correspondances/Sébastien Daucé
rec. June 2019, La Chapelle Royale du Château de Versailles
Picture Format: NTSC 16/9 All Regions
Sound Format: Dolby Digital 5.1, 2.0
Subtitles in French, English
Booklet notes in French, English, German

The Coronation of King Louis XIV occurred in the Rheims Cathedral a full eleven years after the death of his father, Louis XIII.  As he was only five years old when his father died, he spent those years growing up under the regency of his mother Anne of Austria and Cardinal Mazarin. The history of this event is important to put into context because, although Louis was crowned king on that day in Rheims, he held no true authority until the death of the powerful cardinal in 1661.

The accompanying notes of this DVD indicate that there are no surviving records that clearly identify what pieces of music were chosen for the ceremony. The booklet states that research into various contemporary accounts of the day were consulted in order to determine which pieces were used and even to specify the placement of the various musicians throughout the cathedral for the ceremony. Here lies my one quibble with this DVD. There is simply not enough information given about how and why the pieces were selected or what is known of their provenance. Surely it would have been possible to have a more informed essay without delving too deeply into musicological detail. Considering the historical importance of the concert being filmed the documentation is too scarce, which is a huge oversight on the part of label.  One glaring example of my frustration with the lack of information concerns the use of a very rousing Pavane pour le mariage d’Henry IV by an unknown composer. This immediately begs the question which marriage? Was it Marguerite de Valois? Her unfortunate wedding day prompted the massacre of the French Huguenots visiting Paris for the wedding on St Bartholomew’s Day in 1572. The death toll on that day has been estimated from 5000 to 30,000. Could it be the much later marriage to the much-hated Marie de Medici in 1600? If such information is unknown then that should certainly be acknowledged in the notes. As I suspect that the majority of the works performed here are receiving their first commercial recordings, this too should be noted somewhere in the booklet.

What we do get is a jam-packed two hours of baroque motets, instrumental pieces, plain-chants and ceremonial processions. The full coronation including all of the readings, the anointing rituals and the mass would have taken a good four to five hours to sit through. Mercifully, we are spared all of that and just left with all of the interesting bits which was filmed in front of a small audience.

There are 37 compositions listed on the program, which makes it impossible for me to comment on them all. I did find everything to be of interest and there are many highlights to enjoy scattered throughout the program.  The Pavane pour le mariage de Monsieur de Vendome is used for the King’s entrance into the cathedral. This is a suitably grand sounding entrance played with true ceremonial splendour by a woodwind and brass ensemble. There are many anonymously composed works on the program, one of which, Tota pulchra es, is charmingly sung by a children’s choir placed in the high choir loft of Chapel Royal. This is among the many atmospheric highlights that make this concert convey the sense of a real event. The Sacris solemniis (sic) is a very substantial motet by Jean Veillot. It is given a most stirring performance by the artists involved here. Among the wide variety of the selections the one piece that struck me as the most remarkable of all is a haunting work called In lectulo meo by Henri du Mont whose first name is spelled incorrectly in the notes. This is a very intimate romance with nocturnal imagery involving the singer asking, “Have you seen him whom my soul desires?”  The mood of this work is splendidly augmented by some haunting echo effects and is performed on this occasion with ravishing tone by an unnamed soprano.

Without any doubt the most remarkable performance stems from the conductor Sebastien Daucé, who unifies all of his performers to breathe life into this old music. He spiritedly animates works which might seem rather dry in other hands. He shows a great dedication to the music and is sensitive to the effects needed for works of pomp and grandeur while scaling down for those which are more intimate. The choir, soloists and instrumental ensemble are all more than equal to the challenges of the music. The audio engineers have perfectly judged the challenges of recording in the large chapel of Versailles. The camera work keeps up an interesting flow of shots of performers mixed with vistas of the baroque splendour of the Chapel. The cameras have also managed to capture the conductor in numerous shots of his rather charming way of communicating with the choir throughout the concert.

Mike Parr

Antoine BOESSET (1586-1643)
Anna Mater matris
Etienne MOULINIE (1599-1676)
Beata Dei genitrix
Cantata Domino
Agnus Dei
Flores apparuerunt
Jean VEILLOT (? – before 1662)
Sacris solemniis
Roland de LASSUS (1532-1594)
O rex vivat!
Henri Du Mont (1610-1684)
In lectulo meo
Francesco CAVALLI (1602-1676)
Dixit Dominus
Sonate à douze
Charles D’Helfer (1598-1661)
Pavane pour le marriage de Louis XIII
Virgo Dei genitrix
Tota pulchra es
Pavane pour le marriage de Monsieur de Vandome
Jubilate Deo
Pavane pour le marriage d’Henri IV
Benedicte omnia opera
Omnes gentes plaudit minibus
Pavane pour le Sacre de Louis XIII
Domine salvum fac regem
Pavane la petite Guerre
Te Deum a deux choers
O vere digna Hostia
O salutaris Hostia
Gaudete et exultate
Ecce mitto Angelum meum
Domine in virtute tua
O pretiosum munus
Confortare et esto vir
Gentem Francorum
Unexrunt Salomnem Sadoch
Factus est Dominus protector
Pax Domini
Ite missa est

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