Les Elemens: Marais and Rebel - Palladian Ensemble -

Artistic Quality 9 / Sound Quality 10

This disc is "authentic" in two senses: in the selection of instruments as well as in the arrangement of the works for domestic performance. Actually, as the notes correctly point out, Rebel's full score doesn't really exist, so all versions are arrangements even though we know that he wrote the original for orchestra. Any suspicion that "Le Cahos" (Chaos) is going to lose some of its bite when played by recorder, violin, bass viol, and theorbo will be instantly dispelled on hearing the first chord, which nearly sent me through the ceiling. Still, I miss the tang of brass and percussion in the Tambourins and the silky tone of massed violins in the Air pour les Violins, however expert the playing on offer. This is simply a question of individual taste.

On the other hand, in the Marais Suite in A minor, drawn from a variety of pieces for one or two viols, the presence of the recorder enhances the music's color and charm, and the program rises to a truly triumphant conclusion with a brilliantly sustained romp through the composer's Folies d'Espagne. Best of all, Linn's sonics perfectly capture both the vivacity and intimacy of the performances, especially in multichannel format, where the players really do seem to be right in the room with you. You really can imagine yourself taking part in a convivial evening of Baroque music making, featuring the greatest hits of the day--and getting a naughty thrill at Rebel's startlingly dissonant representation of chaos. This is music for fun, and the performances fully convey its pleasures and delights.
01 March 2004