Orchestral Suites

Les Talens Lyriques
Christoph Rousset       Conductor

Aparte AP298
Full price

The Review

This is one of those joyous discoveries that make CD collecting such fun. Pancrace Royer (1703 – 55) is, frankly, a composer of whom no-one outside French baroque academia has ever heard.

Judging by these suites history’s forgetfulness has been very unfair. He was in fact, as Master of the Music, responsible for much of the staging and commissioning of Parisian court opera in the middle years of the 18th century, including the works of Rameau. In a way Royer’s championship of his friend’s music has served to obscure his own considerable talent. They shared a style and between them forged an operatic form containing plenty of dance, divertissement, music that continued to be the Parisian tradition for another hundred years.

The suites Rousset has recorded here, three of the four for the first time, are derived from these stage works: Pyrrhus (1730 and the only one previously on disc), Zaïde, Reine de Grenade (1739), Le Pouvoir de l’Amour (1743) and Almasis (1748). They have the same zest and tunefulness as Rameau’s much more famous suites. Even if the tunes are not quite so catchy, they bowl along with great verve and Les Talens Lyriques finds all the necessary energy and precision, underpinned by some discrete drumming and clapping. But where Rousset is so subtle is in bringing out the elegance that was the real hallmark of the Parisian style Royer was keen to perfect.

The recorded balance is superb: close enough to hear every detail and appreciate every attack, given enough distance to allow the resonance of the church (Notre-Dame du Liban) to give the sound life. The playing is exquisite, especially the matching of the strings with the flutes of Jocelyn Daubiney and Stephanie Troffaes thoughout but particularly in Le Pouvoir de l’Amour and in one of the Act 3 Scene 5 minuets from Zaïde. The ensemble accuracy in every track is exemplary, even from the natural horns and trumpets. Royer’s music in these suites is not profound but it was never meant to be – emotional depth was left for the arias in the operas – but it is exactly how he described it: diverting. A perfect CD to lift the spirits.