Les Vi­olons du Roy

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - — James M. Keller

Founded in 1984, the Québec-based cham­ber orches­tra Les Vi­olons du Roy de­rived its name from Les Vingt-qu­a­tre Vi­olons du Roy, the orches­tra that filled the Palace of Ver­sailles with mu­sic for 135 years, from 1626 to 1761, through the reigns of three French mon­archs, Louis XIII, Louis XIV, and Louis XV. This mod­ern “trib­ute band” opened its con­cert last Sun­day at the Lensic with se­lec­tions from Les Boréades by Jean-Philippe Rameau, the fi­nal opera of the com­poser most as­so­ci­ated with the last of those kings. Rameau was the most dar­ing orches­tral colorist of the late Baroque, and the orches­tra — com­pris­ing two oboes, a bas­soon, and two horns, in ad­di­tion to strings — ren­dered his mu­sic in vivid hues. Th­ese mu­si­cians adopt many tenets of pe­riod style, but they play on mod­ern in­stru­ments (although the string play­ers use pe­riod-style bows). This com­pro­mise al­lows greater breadth in in­ter­pre­ta­tion than pe­riod in­stru­ments might im­pose, but the play­ers use th­ese pos­si­bil­i­ties se­lec­tively and taste­fully, al­ways to con­vinc­ing mu­si­cal ef­fect. Their play­ing was at its most lus­cious in the opera’s Act IV en­tree, which floated dream­ily in the air, much in con­trast to the rough vigor of the sur­round­ing fast move­ments.

The mem­bers of the orches­tra dis­played a level of en­sem­ble sen­si­tiv­ity one as­so­ciates more of­ten with cham­ber mu­sic, but that is not to im­ply that the con­duct­ing was at all an­cil­lary. Since the group’s founder and mu­sic direc­tor, Bernard Labadie, is tak­ing the sea­son off to tend to health con­cerns (we wish him well), the podium for this tour was en­trusted to as­so­ciate con­duc­tor Mathieu Lussier, who em­anated el­e­gance, imag­i­na­tion, and clar­ity. A cu­rios­ity was that he held his ba­ton in his left hand, the op­po­site of stan­dard con­duct­ing prac­tice; even most left-handed con­duc­tors adapt to right-handed ba­ton tech­nique, although there’s no mu­si­cal ar­gu­ment that says one way is bet­ter than the other. Lussier high­lighted emo­tional ex­tremes and vi­o­lent contrasts in Haydn’s Sym­phony No. 45, an ex­em­plar of the “Sturm und Drang” meth­ods the com­poser ex­plored in the years sur­round­ing 1770. Horns added omi­nous den­sity in one phrase, and the tex­ture might sud­denly trans­form to del­i­cate trans­parency in the next. In the fi­nale of this “Farewell” Sym­phony, Haydn has his mu­si­cians stand up and leave the stage a few at a time, a ges­ture orig­i­nally in­tended to con­vince their princely pa­tron to grant them some time off and still a charm­ing and amus­ing ef­fect to­day.

Pi­anist Marc-An­dré Hamelin is most fa­mous as an in­ter­preter of high­oc­tane vir­tu­oso pieces from the late 19th and early 20th cen­turies, but here he was fea­tured in two works of more translu­cent Clas­si­cism. Mozart’s Con­cert-Rondo in A ma­jor (K. 386), a pleas­ant but slight en­try in that com­poser’s cat­a­log, sounded a bit fussy, the soloist some­times em­pha­siz­ing minu­tiae at the ex­pense of over­all flow. Haydn’s well-known D-ma­jor Pi­ano Con­certo made more im­pact, again with the soloist and orches­tra show­ing de­tailed pol­ish. The lengthy ca­denza Hamelin of­fered in the slow move­ment pret­tily re­called the sort of high-pitched “mu­sic-box” writ­ing some of the later barnstormers used as a spe­cial ef­fect, and the fi­nale raced along as fast as I have ever heard it — per­haps even faster. The re­sult led to a few mo­ments that verged on hys­te­ria with­out quite los­ing con­trol, and the whole thing was great fun.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.