Various Artists

Les Musiques de Louis XIV: Du Salon à l'Église

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AllMusic Review by

Here France's Naïve label follows many others in recycling some of its more specialized recordings into a musical portrait of a certain historical situation, in this case the musical life of the court of the Sun King, Louis XIV of France. The recycling operation has rarely been done so well. The booklet essay by Benoît Dratwicki, which appears in French and English, could serve as a reading for students or tour guides who desire a brief introduction to the way Louis thought about music, which entailed a mixture of political display and genuine enthusiasm. Casual listeners may know that Louis was a patron of music, but most will be intrigued to learn that he was a fine dancer, or that his father was a composer who may have written the music for his own funeral. Dratwicki takes the reader through a typical day at court, indicating the portions that would have called for music, which included most of the day. He does not discuss the specific pieces on the disc but provides a framework that lets listeners fill in the blanks down to quite an impressive level of detail; it is not just general piece types that are represented but also their frequent specific traits, such as the military sounds in the "Rumor bellicus" section of Marc-Antoine Charpentier's oratorio Mors Saülis et Jonathae (track 11). Opera and ballet are represented on a separate but similar disc, and the two would make an idea purchase as a pair. Charpentier, the composer who best exemplified the splendor of French cultural life under the Sun King, is the figure represented here most often, with a selection of large ceremonial pieces like the Te Deum. But there is also plenty of music that would have been heard in the royal rooms rather than in public: suites, trio sonatas, and yet more inward music for viol or lute, the former unfortunately recorded with a degree of close-up instrument noise that never would have been apparent to the king. Mostly, however, the disc is beautifully recorded and mastered. There are no texts for the vocal pieces, but the primary intent of the compilers is to put across a big picture. An impressive use of the reissue medium.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Te Deum, motet for 8 voices, chorus & orchestra, H. 146
1
1:20
2
1:45
3
1:42
4
2:36
Psalm 125 "In Convertendo Dominus," grand motet
5
1:36
6
4:44
Work(s)
7
1:49
8
2:02
9
1:55
10
3:05
Mors Saülis et Jonathae, histoire sacrée, for 8 voices, chorus, 2 violins & continuo, H. 403
11
1:47
12
1:34
13
0:48
14
2:49
In honorem Sancti Ludovici Regis Galliae Canticum, motet for 3 voices, chorus, 2 flutes, oboe & continuo, H. 365a
15
2:30
16
2:25
Suite for theorbo in D minor
17
3:08
18
2:05
19
5:23
blue highlight denotes track pick