CD : music in Versailles

Collection La Musique retrouvée à Versailles.


A new collection created by Alpha Production and Château de Versailles Spectacles.



After the exploration of Bach’s ‘five’ Missae Breves concluding with the success of the original version of the B minor Mass, Ensemble Pygmalion has recorded Rameau’s Dardanus following a series of concerts unanimously hailed by the critics. Although superior from the dramatic point of view, this second version of Dardanus proposed by Pygmalion has never, until the present day, been resurrected, with the exception of the famous aria ‘Lieux funestes’ from Act IV. A new edition was carried out (by Gilles Rico) based on the 1744 edition, also incorporating the numerous variants integrated by Rameau between 1744 and 1760, as he constantly strove to enrich the music’s emotional power. Originally stemming totally from the restrictive form of Lully’s tragédie lyrique but also attesting to a pronounced taste for ‘extraordinary stories’, this work presents a more intimate, human sense of the drama, thereby tracing a very clear path towards the psychological explorations of the Classical era.






Two centuries of organ music at the Chapelle Royale, Versailles . . . The recently restored organ of the chapel bears witness to the glorious past of this historic site and the magnificence of the royal liturgy. This project, entrusted to the four resident organists of the instrument, presents a rich panorama of the composers who had the privilege of entering the Versailles organ loft, from the Couperin dynasty to Balbastre. It forms part of a new series produced by Alpha with the Château de Versailles, which will present the fruits of the latest research into the organ repertory in a sumptuous edition.


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The divertissements of the French court, renowned throughout Europe, were at their height during the reign of Louis XIV (1638-1715). Earlier genres, especially the air de cour and the air de ballet, were transformed in the tragédie lyrique, introduced by Jean-Baptiste Lully. Within a few decades the combined talents of Molière and Lully, then Molière and Charpentier, produced the comédie ballet (a fine example is Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, the ‘Turkish March’ from which has remained famous to this day), while the brilliant duo formed by Quinault and Lully worked on tragédies lyriques. These genres were to leave their mark on French music for the next hundred years and influence European music as well.


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During the reign of Louis XIV (1638-1715) sacred music took three essential forms: the largescale grand motet (specific to the French court), the smaller-scale petit motet, and organ pieces alternating with plainchant. All three forms were brought together at Versailles in the daily celebration of the king’s mass. They were also the components of the important religious ceremonies that were held at the principal churches of Paris, such as Notre Dame and the Sainte-Chapelle, which maintained a body of first-rate musicians. Sacred music at Versailles included the ordinary daily office, but also the performance on special occasions of pieces such as the Te Deum. The famous ‘pomp’ of Versailles, as illustrated by the glorious Te Deum setting by Marc-Antoine Charpentier heard on this recording, involving soloists, a large chorus and an orchestra with trumpets and timpani, co-existed with exceptionally intimate works, such as Lalande’s Miserere or the petits motets composed by Du Mont, which illustrate the most personal aspect of French sacred music of the Baroque era. Finally, organ music played a part in religious ceremonies throughout the kingdom, in the cathedrals of the provinces and in the Royal Chapel. At Versailles four organists shared the task of playing the instrument commissioned by Louis XIV, with each one taking a quarter of the year. Francois Couperin and Louis Marchand were among the most famous of the royal organists.


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The event known as ‘Les grandes eaux Musicales de Versailles 2012’, when all the fountains are working, accompanied by music, is presented by the Palace of Versailles in collaboration with Alpha. The music consists of a selection of absolute masterpieces of French Baroque music, from seventeenth- and eighteenth-century songs to great classics of the operatic repertoire, performed by some of the label’s leading artists, including the ensemble Pygmalion, Le Poème Harmonique, Café Zimmermann and others


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In the press :

Resmusica - les nouveaux organistes de la Chapelle Royale de Versailles

Télérama - FFFF pour Dardanus, ensemble Pygmalion dirigé par Raphaël Pichon