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This is an imaginative re-creation of the music that might have been heard at the funeral ceremonies of Louis XIV. These particular ceremonies followed the traditions set down by Louis XIII for his own funeral in 1643. After a reign of 72 years (at the close of which reports suggest that the Parisian populace celebrated with joy and relief…), Louis XIV died on 1 September 1715, followed by ceremonies that lasted a couple of months. On 9 September, his coffin was carried by night to the Abbey of Saint-Denis accompanied by oboes and muffled drums, and it was there displayed and guarded by monks for 40 days and nights. The apotheosis came on 23 October when the sous-maître of the Chapelle royale (Michel-Richard de Lalande) conducted Solemn Requiem Mass (music by either Eustache de Caurroy or Charles d’Helfer) in the old polyphonic style. This was followed by Lalande’s own setting of De profundis – the only musical item that we can be sure was actually performed.

This re-creation, set in the Chapelle royale at Versailles in front of a live audience, contains settings of Jean Colin’s De profundis, André Danican Philidor’s Marche pour les pomps funèbres, Louis Chien’s Ne recordaris and Dirige Domine, Helfer’s Pie Jesu, as well as Lalande’s De profundis, La grand pièce royalle and Dies irae. In between these items, appropriate plainchant is imposingly sung. The performances are of the highest quality, and the video presentation masterly. The lighting has been sensitively arranged with candlelight illuminating the relative darkness, and both the plainchant and the solo muffled drums provide an emotionally gripping context. On a purely musical level, the Lalande pieces are given really stylish interpretations (from editions by Lionel Sawkins), not dominated by any one ‘personality’ but with outstanding performances from all singers and players involved. Very highly recommended.

DAVID PONSFORD Read the full review on Agora Classica

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