Louis XIV: Les musiques du roi-soleil

CD1 Charpentier/Lully – Te Deum
Le Poème Harmonique, Capella Cracoviensis, Vincent Dumestre
CD2 Du Mont – Grands motets for the chapel of Louis XIV
Ensemble Pierre Robert, Frédéric Desenclos
CD3 Versaille, L’île enchantée
Capriccio Stravagante orchestra, Skip Sempé
195:49 (3 CDs)
Alpha 961

This is a re-packaging of recordings from 2013, 2004 and 2001 respectively. The note (Eng/Fre) gives a good general background to the music though says little about specifics and the texts/translations must be downloaded from Alpha. The booklet does, however, include more or less full details of who is singing/playing what.

CD1 is of sacred music – Te Deum settings by Lully and Charpentier directed by Vincent Dumestre. I’m sure that many will find these lively and colourful but I’m afraid they just irritate me. The composers knew what they were doing and their scores do not require the addition of recorders at unlikely pitches or the substitution of viols at the wrong octave for violins. And the choir ladies are prone to excess vibrato in moments of high excitement. On its own this would rank 2.5* for performance.

CD2 is quite different, though also of sacred music. Four noble examples of Henry du Mont’s motets are performed by Ensemble Pierre Robert with respect, restraint and an exquisite sense of style. When first released this was highly praised and nothing has happened to change this. 5* for performance – it is very fine.

CD3 offers a varied selection of secular music – harpsichord solo and duo, opera extracts and solo songs with Skip Sempé/Capriccio Stravagante. The programme is skilfully arranged to reflect the kind of evening that took place in the Versailles salons. As such it is an excellent French Baroque ‘sampler’ but is also rather good (4*), robbed of a full house by the occasional moments of ‘help yourself’ performance practice.

The ratings below are for the overall package.

David Hansell