Comédie et Tragédie, Vol. 1

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COMPOSERS: Lully,Rebel and Marais
LABELS: Chaconne
ALBUM TITLE: Comédie et Tragédie, Vol. 1
WORKS: Orchestral music for theatre by Lully, Rebel and Marais
PERFORMER: Tempesta di Mare; Philadelphia Baroque Orchestra/Gwyn Roberts, Richard Stone
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 0805

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With a barrage of astringent chord clusters at the beginning of his ballet Les éléments, Jean-Féry Rebel brings the soundworld of Ligeti kicking and screaming to 18th-century Paris. And it’s not the only ‘fast forward’ in this first instalment of Tempesta di Mare’s two-disc journey into the French high Baroque. Inspired by a visit from the Turkish Ambassador, Lully’s Bourgeois Gentilhomme fields an artillery of exotic percussion that would power the later craze for janissary jangling up to Mozart’s Entführung and beyond. There’s also another tie that binds. Supporting the Lully is music by two of his most illustrious pupils, and the suite from Marais’s Alcyone even includes a stormy seascape – just the ticket for an ensemble calling itself Tempesta di Mare!

The Philadelphians are a disciplined, well-drilled bunch boasting some chirpy wind players, but the sheer flamboyant theatricality of the music doesn’t always come across. For all the delicious pertness of its ‘Tambourins’, the opening of Les éléments lacks the visceral edge of Musica Antiqua Köln; and if Lully’s dances are decorously elegant, the haughty grandeur which launches the Ouverture sounds a touch cautious – like a master chef carefully following a recipe to the letter rather than having the dish off by heart.

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Paul Riley