Jean-Joseph Cassanéa de Mondonville, violinist of the royal chapel and just a bit younger than Rameau, is one of those French composers of the late Baroque generally relegated to the summary paragraph in historical surveys. His music is not terribly common on recordings, and the Brilliant label's resurrection of this late-'90s recording on Archiv, despite dreadful sound, is welcome.
The pastoral tragedy Acis et Galatée was Lully's last finished work, a three-act extravaganza complete with an opening Prologue, a closing Passacaglia, and assorted dances interspersed throughout. In the right performance, it is at once an inspiring work, a relaxing work, and even an entertaining work and this performance by the Choeurs des Musiciens du Louvre led by Marc Minkowski is surely the right performance.
Under the direction of the principal conductor and artistic director of the Salzburg Mozart Week, Mark Minkowski, the Musiciens du Louvre perform on two of Mozart’s original instruments. Mozart’s Violin Concerto and his Piano Concerto in A major are played on instruments that were once in the composer’s possession. Thibault Noally plays the Violin Concerto on a violin from the workshop of Pietro Antonio Dalla Costa and “conjures up Romantic brilliance from the well maintained instrument”, then Francesco Corti brings Mozart’s fortepiano to life again, thereby spreading “collective Mozart happiness all round” (Salzburger Nachrichten).
Ariodante is one of Handel's most consistently fine operas. Yes, yes, there are whole strings of da capo arias, but they are so dramatically apt and melodically interesting that things never get tiresome. Harmonia Mundi recently released a fine recording of this opera (conducted by Nicholas McGegan and starring "La Divina" Lorraine Hunt), yet this is even better. Anne Sofie Von Otter has, in recent years, sometimes oversung in Baroque music, but her tone here is ideal–heroic and powerful yet pure… There's not a weak link in the cast, and Mark Minkowski's conducting is consistently exciting. There is no better recording of a Handel opera out there. –Matthew Westphal