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"Les Escapades du Roi - Plaisirs & intrigues à la cour de Versailles"

Monika Mauch, sopranoa
Viol consort Les Escapades

rec: May 12 - 15, 2010, Malsch/Sulzbach (G), Kath. Pfarrkiche St. Ignatius
Christophorus - CHR 77338 (© 2010) (73'55")

Michel L'AFFILARD (c1656-1708): Quel martire! (air grave en rondeau)a; Viens avec moi (canaries en rondeau)a; Marc-Antoine CHARPENTIER (1643-1704): Concert à 4 parties de violes (H 545); Les plaisirs de Versailles (H 480): Amour, viens animer ma voix! (air)a; Que tout cède aux douceurs de mes Accords charmants (ouverture & air)a; François COUPERIN (1688-1733): Sonate La Sultanne; Louis COUPERIN (c1626-1661): chaconne ou passacaille; Antoine FORQUERAY (1672-1745): 3e Suite in D [6]: La Régente; Suite for viola da gamba and bc [5]: [piece without title]; courante; sarabande; Michel-Richard DE LALANDE (1657-1726): Les Fontaines de Versailles (S 133); Jean-Baptiste LULLY (1632-1687): Trios pour le coucher du Roi (LWV 35): Ah quand reviendra t'il; Dans nos bois Silvandre; La Jeune Iris; Marin MARAIS (1656-1728): Suite in G: muzette [4]; Suite in g minor: Le Moulinet; Michel Pignolet DE MONTÉCLAIR (1667-1737): Le Triomphe de la Constancea [3]; Luigi ROSSI (c1598-1653): Orfeo, opera: fantaisie; Robert DE VISÉE (c1660-1732): Prélude Assez de pleurs & chaconne;

Sources: [1] Michel L'Affilard, Principes très-faciles pour bien apprendre la musique, 1694; [2] Marin Marais, Pièces de viole, 3e livre, 1711; [3] Michel Pignolet de Montéclair, Cantates, second livre, 1716; [4] Marin Marais, Pièces de viole, 4e livre, 1717; [5] Jean-Baptiste Forqueray, Pieces de viole avec la basse continuë, 1747; [6] Pieces de viole mises en pieces de clavecin, 1747

Franziska Finkh, Sabine Kreutzberger, Barbara Pfeifer, Adina Scheyhing, viola da gamba
Swantje Hoffmann, violin; Andrea Baur, theorbo, guitar; Carsten Lorenz, harpsichord

Musicians sometimes seem not to be satisfied to play the music they like. They come up with a kind of concept to present music and that can be enlightening. The best example is the performance of sacred music within a liturgical context. This disc contains music by composers whio have written for the court in Versailles. "An imaginary story gives it its framework. A young provincial beauty comes to the court, is presented to the King and becomes his favourite, falls into disgrace through the intrigues of her rivals, but finally retrieves her honour."

Some concepts are quite convincing, others less so. This concept falls into the latter category. Fortunately the texts - whose author is referred to as 'Dubarry', without any further information - are only printed in the booklet - in three languages (German, French and English) - and not read. So if one listens to the music one can choose to read them or ignore them. I don't see the relevance of this concept. "The different pieces comment in music on the respective situation, even if the composer had perhaps not had in mind exactly the same associations as those suggested by our story". Exactly. And that's why one can ignore those texts without losing the essence of the music played on this disc.

It has also to be noted that the documentation is poor. In some cases the source has not been given. The two pieces by Marais are from two different books, but these are not mentioned, nor is the suite by Forqueray from which 'La Régente' is taken. Fortunately I could find more information about the sources at the internet. But I couldn't find out whether the cantata Le triomphe de la constance is performed here completely or only in extracts. What is even worse is that whereas the story is given in three languages, the lyrics of the vocal pieces are only printed in French, without translations in English or German.

A word about the title of this disc. This is a reference to the name of the ensemble, but there is more to it as the undertitle reveals: "intrigues and pleasures at the court of Versailles". This is the concept of the programme and its storyline. In his liner-notes - from which I have quoted above - Karsten-Erik Ose underlines how much French culture was dominated by reason, and how everything was regulated and that King Louis XIV was the embodiment of this. "No arbour, no axis in the gardens of Versailles, which was not in accordance with the whole ingenious concept, did not finally have to justify its existence to Louis". But he then points out that "there was an entirely different side of the mirror": "a quest for unrestrained and greedy pleasure, to the limits of perversion". These observations are certainly to the point, but unfortunately they have little, if anything, to do with the music on this disc.

So let us concentrate on the music and the performances. I personally don't like extracts from larger compositions very much. Within a sensible concept it can make sense, but this disc contains too many extracts which diminishes its value. The performances are a mixed success. The Concert à 4 parties de violes is given an excellent performance, much more convincing than performances with violins, let alone with more than one instrument per part. The contributions of Monika Mauch are also very good: she has exactly the right kind of voice, and her singing is delicate and stylish. The performance of Forqueray's 'La Régente' is a bit lacklustre, and Couperin's Sonata La Sultanne is rather bland. The last piece of the programme, the chaconne from De Lalande's Les fontaines de Versailles is one of the best parts of this disc. I would have liked all the performances to be of this level, but that is not the case.

So all in all this is a mixed baggage of good and not so good performances. The music is nice, the concept is irrelevant and the performances varying.

Johan van Veen (© 2011)

Relevant links:

Les Escapades

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