This recording presents two 'simphonies' by composers of the late French
baroque period. The 18th century in France was a time of great musical variety,
although less so than in the 17th century. Music still had its royal function
- most such music was written for the court, or for operas and ballets performed
both at the court and in the city.
The overture of the Francoeur work sounds very much like that of an opera,
in its successive presentation of several themes. It also has that delightful,
grandiose sound of those baroque works written for celebrations - it is similar
in tone to some of Purcell's odes, or Haendel's Water Music.
Unfortunately, the notes accompanying this recording are unclear - it seems
that this 'Simphonie' is a reconstruction of various movements composed for
the occasion. They also mention that Francoeur often 'mixed in' the works
of others; so it is not even clear whether all of the movements attributed
here to Francoeur were indeed written by him.
These works, written for the Comte d'Artois, the future Charles X, are typical
of the music of that period - the orchestrations feature a wide variety of
instruments, such as flutes, oboes, bassoons and are all used to their maximum
effect to provide a sonorous landscape as varied as the gardens of Versailles.
The adjective used to qualify some of the movements give an indication of
the spirit behind the music - they are gracious, light, gay and sweet.
The Rameau works included on this recording are excerpts from Les Indes
Galantes, the incredibly successful ballet that was performed almost
continually from 1735 to 1780, long after Rameau's death. These pieces are
perhaps the hallmark of Rameau's orchestral style - catchy melodies, simple
yet rich orchestration, and a wide variety of tempi and rhythm.
These works are performed efficiently and energetically, but one might find
the strings to be a bit heavy, giving them, at times, a more 19th century
sound, with many strings playing in unison. The Suite closes with Rameau's
famous rondeau, one of the most memorable melodies of the period. This rapid
dance movement has a simple, repeating melody that has listeners tapping
their feet and nodding their heads in time.
In any case, this is late French baroque music in its most characteristic
- affected, grandiose, dainty, yet with such verve and energy, and such
delightful melodies. If listeners close their eyes, they can be transported
back to that time when all was a stage and the players gravitated around
the king and his court. One can only think that it is best that these two
composers did not live until 1789.
A delightful recording of some 'light' music from 18th century France. The
recording captures perfectly the atmosphere of grace and joy this music was
written to express.