Sunday, March 08, 2009

Dryden Ensemble's "Versailles"

For my birthday, JM gave the gift of a ticket to the concert Versailles, a program of Baroque music and readings she conceived for the group she leads, the Dryden Ensemble. TCH and I attended the concert at Trinity Church, Princeton, this afternoon.

The music pieces alternated with readings from the letters of Elisabeth Charlotte (a German princess who married Philippe I d’Orléans, the brother of Louis XIV), the memoirs of the Duc of Saint-Simon, and Moliére’s plays. The readings outline the story of Elisabeth Charlotte: her arrival at the French Court as a young naïve bride; her unhappy marriage with the homosexual Philippe; her antagonism with the King’s mistress Françoise d’Aubigné, Marquise de Maintenon; the king’s death; and finally her own death. Roberta Maxwell read as Elisabeth Charlotte while Paul Hecht read as the Duc of Saint-Simon.

The music was composed by Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687), Louis Couperin (1626-1661), Marin Marais (1656-1728), Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe (c.1640-1700), and François Couperin (1668-1737). I liked particularly Marais’ Muzette I and II (from Piéces de violes, Livre IV), played by the two bass viols, in the first half of the program. In the second half of the program, the readings and the music came together powerfully to convey the pathos of the lives. Marais’ Prélude (from Suite in A Minor) was a standout for me.

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