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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Jean-Baptiste Lully - Les Divertissements de Versailles (William Christie)


Composer: Jean-Baptiste Lully
  1. Psyché, opera, LWV 56: Prélude pour les trompettes
  2. Psyché, opera, LWV 56: "Chantons les plaisirs charmants"
  3. L' Amour médecin, comédie-ballet, LWV 29: "Quittons notre vaine querelle"
  4. George Dandin, comédie-ballet, LWV 38: "Chantons tous de l'Amour"
  5. Armide, opera, LWV 71: "Enfin il est en ma puissance" - "Venez, secondez mes désirs"
  6. Les plaisirs de l'île enchantée, LWV 22: Chère Climène, dis-moi
  7. Isis, opera, LWV 54: "Je vous aime, Nymphe charmante" - "Aimons sans cesse" - "Faut-il qu'en vains disco"
  8. Isis, opera, LWV 54: "Aimez, profitez du temps"
  9. George Dandin, comédie-ballet, LWV 38: "Laisse-nous en repos, Philène!"
  10. Isis, opera, LWV 54: Scène du froid
  11. Isis, opera, LWV 54: Scène des forges
  12. Les muses, ballet, LWV 32: "Trop indiscret Amour"
  13. Roland, opera, LWV 65: "Ah! j'attendrai longtemps" - "Je suis trahi!" - "Ah! je suis descendu dans la nuit du tombeau"
  14. Armide, opera, LWV 71: Ritournelle "Armide, vous m'allez quitter" - Passacaille "Les plaisirs ont choisi"

Sophie Daneman, Rinat Shaham, Emmanuelle Halimi & Isabelle Obadia (sopranos)
Paul Agnew & Cyril Auvity (countertenors)
Laurent Slaars (baritone)
Boris Grappe, Olivier Lallouette & François Bazola (basses)

Les Arts Florissants, orchestra & chorus
William Christie, conductor

Date: 2002
Label: Erato



Things are looking good for Lully just now. Just a month or two after Christophe Rousset’s excellent recording of Persée (Astrée Naïve‚ 5/02) demonstrated the skill with which the composer could weld the diverse dramatic elements of his time into gripping and coherent drama‚ William Christie brings us this selection of titbits showing just where some of those elements came from. ‘Les Divertissements de Versailles’ is not a work in itself‚ but rather a compilation of operatic excerpts alongside scenes from the kind of court entertainments which occupied Lully for the 10 years or so before he composed his first full­scale opera in 1673. Thus we get excerpts from some of the comédies­ballets on which he collaborated with Molière – in this case L’Amour médecin‚ George Dandin and Les plaisirs de l’île enchantée – a significant part of his output which has rarely appeared on CD. (There have been selections in the past from Minkowski and Sempé respectively‚ though both are no longer available.) Even the opera excerpts are rarities‚ however. Both the Passacaille and the great monologue ‘Enfin il est en ma puissance’ from Armide are relatively familiar‚ but few people will have heard the mad scene from Roland before‚ or even the ‘famous’ Frost Scene from Isis‚ despite the history­book commonplace that its choral teeth­chattering inspired Purcell in King Arthur.

Other novelties include an entertaining and increasingly heated choral dispute from George Dandin between followers of Bacchus and Amour‚ a 12­minute set­piece divertissement from Isis telling the story of Pan and Syrinx and ending with Pan delivering a touching lament‚ and a lightly drawn piece of (unsuccessful) pastoral lovemaking from George Dandin again. They reveal much about Lully’s varied dramatic abilities‚ including his natural way with French declamation‚ his lively comic imagination and supreme talent for tragic monologues and laments.

If this kind of genius has too long been overlooked‚ we can at least rely on Christie to show us exactly how it works. As usual in Baroque music for the stage‚ he hardly puts a foot wrong and never fails to realise the music’s potential. Everything hangs together‚ everything works. His line­up of singers includes established favourites such as Sophie Daneman‚ Paul Agnew and Olivier Lallouette alongside some new voices‚ among which I particularly enjoyed the forceful soprano of Rinat Shaham (though her ‘Enfin’ cannot match that of Patricia Petibon’s recent recital disc for sheer dramatic power). Even if it were not so well performed this would be a fascinating release; in Christie’s capable hands it is a must for fans both of the French Baroque and of Baroque opera in general.

-- Robert LevineGramophone

More reviews:
BBC Music Magazine  PERFORMANCE: **** / SOUND: *****


Jean-Baptiste Lully (28 November 1632 – 22 March 1687) was an Italian-born French composer, instrumentalist, and dancer who spent most of his life working in the court of Louis XIV of France. He is credited with the invention in the 1650s of the French overture, a form used extensively in the Baroque and Classical eras. Lully's music is known for its power, liveliness in its fast movements and its deep emotional character in its slower movements. Lully, who disavowed any Italian influence in French music of the period, is considered a master of the French baroque style.


William Lincoln Christie (born December 19, 1944 in Buffalo, New York) is an American-born French conductor and harpsichordist, a specialist in baroque repertoire and is the founder of the ensemble Les Arts Florissants. Christie studied art history at Harvard University, and music at Yale University, where he was a student of harpsichordist Ralph Kirkpatrick. In France, he became known for his interpretations of Baroque music, particularly French Baroque music, working with René Jacobs and others. Christie was a professor at the Paris Conservatoire from 1982 to 1995.


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