The Palais-Royale was originally the home of Richelieu and on his death in 1624 it was left to the crown. It passed to Louis XIV’s nephew Philippe II, son of the Duke of Orléans, and ranked with the Louvre and the Tuileries are one of the three most important palaces in Paris. The theatre of the palace was a Parisian operatic base for over a century until the theatre burnt down in 1763.
When Philippe inherited the theatre there was a desire to escape the relative turgidity of court life. In effect, musically speaking, this meant a demand for Italian music and for a progressive mating of the indigenous with the foreign styles, something that was clearly evident inRead more English music of the time. As a programmatic restoration of the music to be heard at that time and in the Palais-Royale this disc has chosen one of the Duke’s own little pieces and surrounded it with more substantial fare by Pierre Gillier, Michele Mascitti and Nicolas Bernier.
We hear selections from Gillier’s Livre d’airs et de simphonies meslés de quelques fragmens d’opéra – seven little pieces in all. There’s some fine fiddling here with adept ornamentation. The Air du Violon en Rondeau is especially captivating by virtue of its sheer refinement and elegance. Sara Macliver sings Sombres Déserts with reflective directness. Listening to the violin unfolding the Chaconne in the second Prelude, with the well-balanced and supportive harpsichord, makes one acknowledge the aptness of the descriptive Tendrement.
Mascitti is represented by two Violin Sonatas. The F major is drenched in the mountain stream ethos of Corelli – and its fluid writing with once more a well-balanced cello obbligato is excellently conveyed. There’s especially touching gravity in the central movement. The companion sonata is for two violins in A minor and is perhaps less arresting and immediately impressive as a work, but is very cannily laid out for the distribution of voice parts. Bernier’s La caffé was written c.1703 and is a cantata in praise of – what else? – coffee. It’s full of gracious curlicues and shows strong signs of the Italian in its vocal writing.
The texts are in French with English translations. There are typically adept performances from another of ABC’s roster of baroque ensemble specialists.