Elegant, soulful and frolicsome
Brianna Neal | USA | 11/27/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Another thoroughly enjoyable recording by the Palladian Ensemble! The Palladian Ensemble and Chatham Baroque have both released CDs of French music from the reign of Louis the XIV (this one and "Danse Royale" respectively). Although the selections differ, the tone is much the same, and well enough--this is beautiful stuff, and it is nice to be able to compare the interpretations of two such accomplished ensembles. If pressed, I would have to say that while the dual-violin-over-gamba-and-theorbo sound of Chatham Baroque is slightly richer than Palladian's pairing of violin and recorder over the same low instruments, Palladian's work is a bit more playful. Both groups make for utterly splendid listening, however--at once deeply relaxing and cheerfully invigorating. If you have a CD player that will randomly mix and match from multiple discs, buy them both and listen to them together for a double treat. Add a hot bath and a cold drink to the experience, especially when you're trying to de-stress, and I can't imagine you could get much closer to heaven!"
The delights of 17th-century France
Alan Lekan | Boulder, CO | 01/23/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Having produced marvelous recordings of the Baroque eras of Germany, Italy and England ("Trios for 4" and "A Choice Collection"), the Palladian Ensemble settle into the more relaxed, richly harmonic music of the French Baroque and the Court of Louis XIV ("The Sun King"). Featured are courty works by Rebel, Le Moine, Marais and the great Couperin. In the notes, theorbo player William Carter describes the differences in the music of this period in France: "What is it about this music that exerts such a particular fascination on musicians and listeners alike? Maybe it is the composer's constant awareness of and delight in the instrumental sonorities and colour. This delight in the subtle distinctions and love of timbre for its own sake is a source of pleasure in French music of our own time as well (Rameau through Berlioz and Debussy to Messian and Boulez). But perhaps it is simply the feeling (which can be rare in other styles of early music) that the composers were actually in love with the instruments for which they wrote. Whatever the reason, it is a pleasure for us to relax into this music which always rewards the performer as well as the listener."
Compared to their other recordings, this one has a notably calm mood and is full of alluring expression from all players. The piece of Le Moine is a beautiful work for solo theorbo while Marais gives two subtle works scored for bass viol and theorbo. Neither are in any hurry to prove anything beyond the sheer enjoyment and wonder of the rich tones the instruments exude. The opening "Les Caracteres de la Danse" is, yes, much about the dances of the Court which were elevated to a supreme place of importance by the King (who was supposedly a fine dancer). Its character is festive but with an intelligent compostional structure.
The Palladian Ensemble is in top form for these works and play them with a tangible sense of enjoyment - which is what the music is all about. Rachel Podger is one of the masters of the Baroque violin whose rich, lyrical, expressive and "sunny" tonality is perfect for this type of music. She is always a joy to hear (her Mozart sonatas might be the exception). But in the Baroque she is radient. The entire ensemble sounds superb and create rich textures and sonorities that - like William Carter notes - is just a pure pleasure to enjoy regardless of the musical intricacies or form. Part of the richness must be credited to the full-bodied and most realistic sound quality (in spite of the not-so-famous Linn label). So, while this music will not win any awards for its genius or revolutional impact, it is a simple treasure to hear every now and then to just enjoy the beauty of the instruments and imagine an era where dance and delight reigned in the Court of "The Sun King.""