Messe du Roi Soleil

The Sun King’s Mass
Marguerite Louise, directed by Gaétan Jarry
Château de Versailles Spectacles CVS008
Music by Couperin, Delalande, Guilain, Lully & Philidor

One expects better of Versailles. Although the performances are quite decent, the programme is rather a rag-bag and very short and the booklet (Eng/Fre) poorly designed. Why not all the French essays together, then all the English, rather than interleaving them? And the notes, once found, aren’t that great either – whether in French or English. A case of trying too hard, rather than incompetence, but either way the reader loses out.

The Sun King heard various types of mass in his chapel, most famously the ‘solemn low mass’ which consisted of a grand motet, a petit motet and a Domine salvum fac regem, all sung while the priest quietly spoke the liturgy. On other occasions, he heard organ music and chant and here we get a bit of everything, sometimes a very short bit. So the overall effect is rather unsatisfying even though the major works – psalm settings by Delalande and Lully – are splendid pieces, worthily sung. Indeed, the soprano solos and duets are some of the best I’ve heard for a long time. Nonetheless, the overall verdict has to be ‘could do better’.

David Hansell

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