acques‐Martin Hotteterre was a virtuoso recorder player at the court of Louis XIV the Sun King, in the distinguished position of Musicien de la Chambre du Roi. He was a famous composer as well, mainly for his own instrument, for which he wrote numerous works, in which he integrated Italian elements, such as instrumental brilliance and prevalence for longer melodic lines, in the courtly French style of dance forms and lavish ornamentation.
CPO follows its stellar releases of Conradi's Ariadne and Lully's Thésée by the Boston Early Music Festival with an equally extraordinary performance of Lully's Psyché. These are works that have had limited exposure and are known far better by reputation than by performances or recordings.
For any enthusiast of Baroque music, the production of Lully's Armide at the Theatre des Champs Elysées, directed by William Christie and staged by Robert Carsen, was an exceptional event. The last and most successful collaboration between Lully and his librettist Quinault, Armide is the ideal of the genre as desired by Louis XIV: a tragic opera that achieves the perfect fusion of music, song and dance. William Christie leads the orchestra and chorus of Les Arts Florissants and a dazzling cast. Stephanie D’Oustrac is the imperious sorceress Armida, overcome by the violence of a forbidden passion.
This two-CD album brings together the two earliest recordings by La Petite Bande. They were made in 1973 and feature landmarks in two important French forms of entertainment—comedie-ballet and opera-ballet. Performed in 1670 at Chambord, one of Louis XIV's grandest country retreats, Le bourgeois gentilhomme was the high water mark of Lully's collaboration with Moliere and was to be the last work of its kind on which the two worked together. Moliere developed the comedie-ballet from the fashionable court ballets, working the dances and music into the body of the play with unparalleled skill. Lully, himself a dancer, proved a gifted partner as the music for Le bourgeois gentilhomme reveals.
In his position as the king’s composer, Jean Baptiste Lully (1632-1687) created the opera Persée for Louis XIV. The opera was considered the crowning achievement of 17th century French music theatre and was widely recognized as Lully’s greatest work. Filled with dancing, fight scenes, monsters and special effects, this truly spectacular music drama recounts the thrilling story of Perseus, son of Zeus and heroic vanquisher of the snake-haired Gorgon Medusa. More than half a century after its premiere, Louis XV chose “Persée” to open the new Royal Opera House at the Chateau de Versailles, an event that formed part of the celebrations for the future Louis XVI’s marriage to Marie Antoinette. Recorded live at the Elgin Theatre, Toronto in April 2004, this staging is a dazzling spectacle of gods and goddesses, dancing scenes, flying machines and monsters with fight scenes and special effects inspired by designs from the original 17th century performance. The excellent singer-actors and the “Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir” are leading specialists in early music.
The large motet 'à la française' is a quite distinctive affair that has nothing in common with the more traditional notion that a composer like Bach, for instance, had of the genre. If a comparison must be made, we will find that the French motet is more like an extended cantata consisting of a succession of choruses and arias accompanied by the orchestra, with the absence of recitative constituting an important difference.
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.
This opera concerns Perseus, his love for Andromeda, and his killing of the snake-headed gorgon Medusa. Jean-Baptiste Lully clearly meant the heroic Perseus to stand for Louis XIV, who commissioned the work. Indeed, while Persee is not on stage all the time, he is the central character of this lengthy, ceremonial, beautifully scored work. Those who love the peculiar formalities of French Baroque opera will need no coaxing.