King’s Supper Symphonies Reissued

Review by: John Greene


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 10

This is a reissue of a long out-of-print, extremely rare set originally released by Harmonia Mundi France in 1990. At the time, I was ecstatic since not only was this the first complete recording of Michel Richard De Lalande’s legendary Symphonies pour les Soupers du Roy (music for the king’s suppers), but it also was the first on period instruments. It was about time!

For years, the available performances consisted primarily of the overly polite, excessively suave efforts of Paul Kuentz (DG Archiv), Jean-Francois Paillard (Erato), and their respective modern-instrument chamber ensembles. There just had be more to this music; and with these fresh new performances, Hugo Reyne and his La Simphonie du Marais clearly demonstrated that there was. Their phrasing, dynamic choices, and especially the more widely-varied tempos were far more interesting and engaging. The immediacy and clarity of the period instruments (especially the brass and percussion) was a welcome relief.

What I didn’t expect was the realization that acquiring all 12 of these symphonies may be more than enough for most listeners. They’re all composed in the prevailing glorious yet essentially predictable Court Galant style, encompassing four generously-filled CDs. However, there are a few important exceptions: five movements are spiced with castanets; three movements feature brief soprano arias; two feature bagpipes, and one a xylophone. It is fascinating to hear, in the seventh Suite subtitled “Symphonie du Marais”, the winds humorously (and convincingly) imitating animal noises. The bizarre percussive drum rolls, bells, and cymbals that lace the ninth movement of the ninth Suite, as well as subtle use of chimes in the following tenth movement Chaconne, are also quite memorable; but that’s really about as much variety as you’re in for here.

The sound is audiophile quality, well-balanced, with extraordinary instrumental clarity. Reyne’s original notes—wonderfully anecdotal, erudite, and often highly entertaining—sadly have been cut to shreds. Especially missed are the paragraphs Reyne devoted to how performances of the music often corresponded to the protocol, ceremony, and specific cuisine choices of these royal meals, which were occasions celebrated with an audience of observers and attendants. This is relevant!

Anyway, in 2007 Harmonia Mundi reissued a single-CD highlights program that included the grand opening Concert de Trompettes, the complete fifth and twelfth Suites, as well as selections from the seventh Suite. While this also has been deleted, it’s possible to find it on the second-hand market, so for many interested new listeners to this music, that may suffice. But I’m glad I never parted with my original complete set after all these years. Recommended with reservations.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: This one

    La Simphonie du Marais, Hugo Reyne

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