Lully: Acis et Galatée

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Lully
LABELS: Archiv
WORKS: Acis et Galatée
PERFORMER: Jean-Paul Fouchécourt, Véronique Gens, Laurent Naouri, Howard Crook, Mireille Delunsch, Thierry Félix; Les Musiciens du Louvre & Choir/Marc Minkowski
CATALOGUE NO: 453 497-2
The mythic love triangle between Acis, Galatea and the cyclops Polyphemus is a story that inspired writers and musicians from Virgil and Ovid to John Gay and Handel. Lully’s pastorale héroïque, based on the same subject, was his final masterpiece, and in its combination of comic, pastoral and tragic themes it made a fittingly dramatic end to his career. Musically, Acis is a seamless, swiftly changing sequence in which vibrant dances, marches and instrumental interludes are interwoven with airs, recitatives, ensembles and choruses, all culminating in a monumental Passacaille. Minkowski shapes the whole superbly, and the ‘live’ recording captures the motion and intensity of a staged performance, while judicious editing (presumably) has removed irritating extraneous noises. Haute-contre Jean-Paul Fouchécourt is outstanding as Acis, at once agile and lyrical; and if Véronique Gens, as his beloved Galatea, does not always produce a beautiful sound, her performance has immense dramatic potency: their brief musical union in Act II is intensely moving. Among the remaining soloists Laurent Naouri – an imposing Polyphemus – also deserves special mention.

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An impressive recording of a work which – if it doesn’t sound too much like an advert for a particular radio station – was thought in its day to be among ‘the most beautiful music in the world’.