Les Noces Royales de Louis XIV

Le Poème Harmonique, directed by Vincent Dumestre 
Spectacles du Château de Versailles CVS066166

Louis XIV’s wedding was part church service, part a tour of France and part peace treaty (between France and Spain). There was music of all kinds every step of the way but, sadly, details are hard to come by. Thus, this so-attractive title and concept/programme are almost entirely speculative but nonetheless constitute an attractive and well-performed anthology of the kind of music heard in French royal circles c1660.

The two major works are both sacred. Lully’s Jubilate Deo is a magnificent setting of a text compiled from several psalms and can be definitely associated with the royal wedding. Its splendour of both material and construction is the more striking when one recalls that it is the composer’s earliest surviving sacred work. Sources record that the nuptial mass itself featured music by Italian composers. Rather perversely these are evoked by a Cavalli Magnificat from his 1656 publication. Fine though this is, could we not have had at least a taste of the elaborate mass that opens that volume?

I suggested above that the performance standard of this release is high. This is true, but, as always with this director, there are questions to be asked about the performance practice of almost every item, chiefly concerning instrumentation and ornamentation which strike me as being rather ‘help yourself’.

David Hansell

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