Lully: Cadmus & Hermione

Le Poème Harmonique – Ensemble Aedes, Vincent Dumestre
122:18 (2 CDs and a libretto in a cardboard wallet)
Château de Versailles Spectacles CVS037

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This was Lully’s first tragédie-en-musique. The libretto and, indeed, the new genre caused a certain amount of outrage among traditional dramatists but the mould had been broken and a new one created. This ‘studio-style’ recording was made in the opera house at Versailles which facilitates some doubling-up of the smaller parts, though this is of no great consequence. The artists are supported by a lavish booklet (essays in French, English and German, libretto in only French and English), though there are some minor typographical errors).

The solo singing is all very good, with well-paced recitative and well-defined emotions. I was less comfortable with the chorus, where the top line is not always as coherent as one might wish. But it is the instrumental contribution that I find disappointing, though others may think it wonderful. As is his habit, this conductor cannot resist fiddling with the instrumentation. The wind scoring is over-elaborated, and I doubt that Lully ever heard recorders at this pitch, let alone used them; I feel that the continuo is over-scored; and I also doubt the need for the percussion contributions.

When so much is so good it is a shame that these irritations occur. Cadmus is a fine work, and does not need this dressing-up.

David Hansell

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