Pygmalion, Raphael Pichon - The Funeral of Louis XIV

Published Tuesday 6th March 2018
Pygmalion, Raphael Pichon - The Funeral of Louis XIV
Pygmalion, Raphael Pichon  - The Funeral of Louis XIV

STYLE: Choral
RATING 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8
LABEL: Harmonia Mundi HMD9909056.57

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Reviewed by Steven Whitehead

Louis XIV became king of France aged just four in 1643 and reigned until his death in 1715. As soon as he was old enough to wield power himself he became the epitome of the absolute monarch, doing whatever he wished and ignoring his advisors when they failed to tell him what he wanted to hear. His distrust of the political establishment in Paris led him to order the construction of the great palace of Versailles from where he ruled his subjects and made war on his neighbours and inadvertently set his nation on a course that led to rebellion and the abolition of the monarchy. As a patron of the arts he may have deserved his title as the Sun King and Versailles remains well worth a visit. The funeral of Louis XIV mirrored his reign: grandiose and yet filled with pathos. Raphaël Pichon, musical director of the combined choir and orchestra Pygmalion, has chosen the setting of the Chapelle Royale in Versailles, built for the use of the Sun King, to present a musical reconstruction of the event, with atmospheric chiaroscuro lighting designs by Bertrand Couderc. Solemn grands motets like the "De Profundis" and "Dies Irae" of Michel-Richard de Lalande (1657-1726) and the poignant "Marche Funèbre Pour le Convoy du Roy" by André Danican Philidor (1652-1730) are juxtaposed with rarely heard music by Jean Colin (died 1642), Louis Chein (1637-1692) and Charles d'Helfer (1598-1641) as well as some anonymous plainchants. The musicianship on display is outstanding and the compositions of great interest to all who appreciate the High Baroque period. There are sub-titles in Latin, French and English for which this listener is grateful and much to keep both eyes and ears occupied. If I have a criticism it is that while I should think the lighting for those who were present at the recording on the tercentenary of the event in November 2015 was adequate it comes across on the dull side, at least on my screen. However, this in no way detracted from my enjoyment of the music.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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