Comédie et Tragédie, Volume 2 – Leclair: Suite from 'Scylla et Glaucus'; Charpentier: Suite from 'Le malade imaginaire'; Rameau: Suite from 'Les fêtes de Polymnie'

Reviewed on Fri 05 Aug, 2016

Visiting Parisian theatres in 1739, Horace Walpole commented acidly that “their music resembles a gooseberry tart as much as it does harmony”; he may have had in mind the French fondness for theatrical ‘special effects’, such as the 'Monsters Symphony' at the climax of Leclair’s Scylla et Glaucus.

The Philadelphia Baroque Orchestra, Tempesta di Mare, continue their exploration of French Baroque theatre music on a second album that features three substantial suites from three substantial composers. Visiting Parisian theatres in 1739, Horace Walpole commented acidly that “their music resembles a gooseberry tart as much as it does harmony”; he may have had in mind the French fondness for theatrical ‘special effects’, such as the 'Monsters Symphony' at the climax of Leclair’s Scylla et Glaucus (from 1746), or perhaps the kind of daring dissonances encountered in Rameau’s Les fêtes de Polymnie (1745). Even Charpentier’s brief suite from 1673’s Le malade imaginaire has its share of exoticisms, albeit on a more modest scale. Sometimes Tempesta di Mare seem a little too polite – surely pieces entitled 'Air de demons' need a lot more gusto – but they are nevertheless able to bring out the theatricality of this often lively, occasionally eccentric music.
–Mark Walker