Les Grandes Eaux Musicales de Versailles

The liner notes for this release read “Alpha invites you to prolong the pleasure of your visit to Versailles with this recording of the music you heard in the gardens.”  I’m sure it’s offered in the gift shop at Versailles (and obviously several other places as well — like Amazon).

“Les Grandes Eaux Musicales de Versailles” may be the soundtrack to the water garden tour, but that’s not where this music was originally heard. The compilation features Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s “Te Deum” (originally heard in the royal chapel), as well as several dramatic works that would have first been performed in the Royal Opera House at Versailles — not in the gardens.

But while the setting is a little sketchy, the authentic instrument performances on this compilation are rock-solid. The performances capture the florid elegance — and refinement — of Louis XIV’s court. And in a way, this release can serve as a good introduction to French Baroque music.

Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s “Te Deum” is an excellent example of the religious music commissioned by and performed for the King. Jean-Baptiste Lully set the standard for French opera (and incidental music for dramas).

Jean-Marie Leclair founded the French violin school of the High Baroque, and Nicolas-Pancrace Royer was music teacher to the children of Louis XV and one of the most flamboyant harpsichord players of his day.

André Campra, a transitional composer between Lully and Rameau is represented with two selections from his opera Tancrède (another work that was most certainly performed at Versailles, but not in the water garden). And the disc fittingly concludes with excerpts from Dardanus, an opera by Jean-Philippe Rameau. Rameau brought the French baroque period to a close, and fittingly, his music closes the program.

I haven’t toured the Versailles gardens, but I did enjoy the soundtrack.

Les Grandes Eaux Musicales de Versailles
Marc-Antoine Charpentier: Te Deum (Le Poème Harmonique; Vincent Dumestrea, conductor)
Jean Baptiste Lully: Piéces d’orchestra & airs (Café Zimmermann); Versailles, L’iles enchantée (Capriccio Stravante Orchestra; Skip Sempé, conductor)
Nicolas-Pancrace Royer: Pyrrhus (Les Enfants d’Apollon, Michael Greenberg, conductor)
Jean-Marie Leclair: Sylla & Glaucus (Les Nouveaux Caractéres; Sèbastien d’Hèrin, conductor)
André Campra: Tancrède (Orchestre Les Temps Présents et les Chantres du Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles, Olivier Schneebeli, director
Jean-Philippe Rameau: Dardanus (Pygmalion, Raphaël Pichon, director)

Alpha-Classics 959

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