“Les Grandes Eaux Musicales de Versailles” = Works of JEAN-BAPTISTE LULLY, JEAN-PHILIPPE RAMEAU, HENRY DESMAREST, CHARLES GOUNOD, NICOLO PORPORA – Christophe Rousset leading Les Talens Lyriques et al. – Naive/Ambroisie 167, 75 mins. ***** [Distr. by Harmonia mundi]:
Bounding from pillar to post, Christophe Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques have compiled from past recordings a tour of the canals and fountains of Louis XIV’s gardens at Versailles in a wonderful program that captures that peculiar blend of innocence and sophistication that some of France’s greatest composers served up as entertainment to a social class which, for the most part, had neither. There are three at times gracious, at times crackling, overtures by Lully and Rameau (the latter’s overture to Zais is a totally bizarre piece of music, and an ultimate audiophile demonstration piece if you crank up the volume), extended instrumental and vocal excerpts from entertainments by Lully and Desmarest, and a dazzling short whirling dervish of musical energy from Gluck’s Bauci e Filemone.
Great liner notes by Jean-Jacques Aillagon and Vincent Borel, in the French style of course, which means that every word, phrase or sentence that doesn’t give up its meaning immediately (and there are many) signals the opportunity for a delicious tidbit of deeper contemplation. Too bad that there are no texts for the vocal bits. Great sound, recorded by Decca between 1994 and 2007.
Just keep in mind that when Borel writes, “Let us imagine a theatre of greenery, lit by crystal girandoles, with blossoming orange trees framing the stage, each attended by a lackey diffusing its fragrances by means of a fan. Suddenly Medusa appears, her head wreathed in vipers. Then the waves are whipped up by a sea monster streaming with real water,” he is not referring to a domestic scene!
– Laurence Vittes