Bernard Labadie / Les Violons du Roy

Bonbons

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The collection of "bonbons" from the Quebec City historical-performance string group Les Violons du Roy (which takes its name from the house band of the Baroque-era French court) represents an attempt to redefine the hits-of-classical-music approach in the direction of Baroque (and Classical) repertory. It's a good idea, and the program is a nice mix of pieces that are often heard in introductory albums with lesser-known but nonetheless tunes. The Pachelbel Canon in D major, presented together as intended with its concluding Gigue (jig), is paired with the opening adaptation by Francesco Geminiani of Corelli's La Follia, a similarly lyrical-extreme treatment of the ground bass principle. Bach's Air on the G string, from the Suite No. 3 for orchestra in D major, BWV 1068, is preceded by a sinfonia from a cantata and the Oboe Concerto in D minor of Alessandro Marcello, smoothly rendered by oboist Diane Lacelle. The execution isn't quite as smooth as the overall idea. For one thing, the inclusion of Mozart's serenade Eine kleine Nachtmusik, K. 525, makes an odd shift from the rest of the mostly Baroque and pre-Classical program, and it's not a graceful reading. The harpsichord continuo is fancy and flowery. Veteran Quebecois conductor Bernard Labadie pushes the phrasing in unusual directions, breaking up chains of dotted notes with varied phrasing; his decisions don't always make sense, but Les Violons du Roy play crisply and cleanly. For a basic turn through some Baroque favorites, this works well and may even give you new ideas for listening in the future, but sample some other collections under the Baroque Greatest-Hits rubric to see whose approach you prefer.

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