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American Record Guide: (07-08/2020) 
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Château de Versailles

Code-barres / Barcode : 3770011431205


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Reviewer: Charles Brewer

Following the death of his father, Louis XIII, Louis Dieudonné de Bourbon was crowned King of France in Rheims Cathedral on 7 June 1654, hence the French title for this release: "Le Sacre Royal de Louis XIV". While external evidence is preserved concerning the ceremony, there is no indication of what specific music was performed. With the assistance of musicologist Thomas Leconte, Sebastien Daucé has prepared a hypothetical reconstruction of music for this ceremony based on printed and manuscript sources from the early 17th Century. This was filmed in concert at the Chapel of Versailles. Daucé's project joins a growing list of reconstructions for other historical ceremonies, such as the musical recreations of the coronation of Elizabeth I by Philip Cave (Griffin 4032), the state funeral for Admiral Lord Nelson by David Price (Herald 802322), or the recent video recording of the music for the Coronation of George II, including Handel's Coronation Anthems, also filmed in the Chapel at Versailles (July/Aug 2019).

Given the importance of Louis XIV's coronation, the sources apparently supply some clues as to the musicians and instruments that would have participated; and Daucé has gather a large and varied ensemble of singers (both adults and the children of "Les Pages du Centre de musique baroque de Versailles") and instrumentalists, including consorts of recorders, shawms, cornetti, and sackbuts, a "basse de Lorraine" (a bass string instrument between a cello and double bass in size), and even a serpent, along with a 17-member string ensemble. The musical selections come from a wide variety of sources, including royal musicians such as Antoine Boesset, Etienne Moulinié, and Henry Du Mont, a Mass setting by Charles D'Helfer, and a 'Dixit Dominus' and 'Sonata a 12' by Francesco Cavalli, along with many anonymous works found in the so-called Deslauriers and Tours manuscripts. The chant is fascinating because some of the Latin texts have been modified to include references to the Bourbon dynasty or Louis himself. The instrumental marches and dances are taken from a  retrospective collection of instrumental music from the reign of Louis XIII copied in 1690, including a Pavane for his coronation. Previous reviewers of the series of concert videos from the Chapel at Versailles have noted the wandering eye of the camera, but in this concert, the visual images of the unusual instruments is matched by the movement of the musicians themselves. The concert begins with all the musicians marching into the chapel (including the lower strings, who use carrying straps). The musical requirements change from piece to piece; for example, the chant can be seen sung by the adult singers on the platform or by Les Pages from the gallery or even in the midst of the audience. Musicians shift from the stage to platforms on either side of the hall for the polychoral pieces or even up to the gallery for a motet for solo soprano and continuo by Henry Du Mont ('In lectulo meo') with an "echo" soprano and theorbo up in the gallery above the stage. Certainly in contrast to the recent Messiah recording from the same place (M/J 2020: 188), where Mr Gatens noted that "there is some degree of contrivance in a DVD of an event that is not essentially visual", Daucé and his visual directors, Mickaël Phelippeau and Marcela Santander, have created a concert that gains a great deal through being seen.

In sum, this is a fascinating visual and aural document with subtitles for all of the vocal music. The audio quality is excellent; I noticed at one point in the mix, even when most of the ensemble was performing, you could also distinguish the single recorder player who was doubling one of the soprano parts. You can also see and hear a very elegant performance of chant accompanied by an also elegant "serpentist", Patrick Wibart. Add to that the rarely performed early 17th Century French sacred repertoire, and this is certainly worth having.



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