The Lully Effect

Floral design

Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra, Barthold Kuijken
Naxos 8.573867

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen one sees one of the Kuijken brothers at the helm of an orchestra, a kind of comfortable assurance sweeps over any major drifting worries about interpretation; he certainly knows his musical “onions”!

It seems this was a long-held wish to perform/record these chosen works by these three important composers, showing the transmission of the overture-suite (suite de danses) from the early operatic epicentre of Paris, through Amsterdam’s publishers, and out into the wider Germanic realm, and then back. One of the very first works to make such a musical journey was Lully’s opera, Cadmus and Hermione  of 1673, published in 1682 in Amsterdam as “Ouverture avec tous les airs…fait a Paris par Monsr Jean Baptiste Lully”. Two of the early (first wave of Lullistes) were P. H. Erlebach (1657-1714) and J. S. Kusser (1660-1727) the latter maybe even a pupil of the famous French master? Their fine Lully-influenced works featured on a similar concept CD, “Lully in Deutschland” on Amati, with L’Arpa Festante München under Michi Gaigg. On this disc we have an overture-suite by one of the Baroque’s dynamic masters, a gifted “fusionist” of styles, who was no sluggard in producing a profusion of overtures, alongside their following movements, some being direct extracts from operas, some much more idiomatic readings of tasteful and witty insights, plus topographic, nationalistic and mythological depictions; at times with elemental and fanciful themes – Telemann. The work chosen to represent him here, TWV55: e3, from ca. 1716, incorporates some of these elements mentioned. There are some delightfully eccentric qualities and dynamic twists that make it perfect for inclusion. Finally, we have a return to Paris, with Rameau’s fabulously orchestrated Dardanus  (1739/44) suite; truly captivating music that just seeps and sighs with delicious “finesse” and “tendresse” – every single serious Baroquophile will recall the very first encounter with this ravishing, fantastical music which casts a potent, lasting spell. I wouldn’t like to guess how many versions there are out there… Amusingly, peeping out from the CD tray, I espy the EUBO under Roy Goodman doing: Dardanus!

The playing here is refined, never pushed to excess, yet might have had a touch more vim and pepper in the Telemann, and boisterous fun with the Rameau. The overall effect is steady and elegant at the helm! The Lully itself, a few extracts from Armide, could have been longer… and possibly selected movements from elsewhere (the afore-mentioned Cadmus and Hermione?) This is a fine recap for all those not already in the know.

David Bellinger

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