Over two decades ago, the recorder and baroque oboe virtuoso Hugo Reyne founded the ensemble La Simphonie du Marais, which has since made a name for itself by performing and recording numerous works from the French baroque repertoire. In the last few years, they’ve focused on recording live many operas by Jean-Baptiste Lully, releasing one about every year. More recently, they recorded an ambitious program that collects all of the music which was composed to celebrate the wedding of Louis XIV to the Spanish Infanta Maria Theresa. La Simphonie du Marais’s excellent performance includes music by Lully and Francesco Cavalli, as well as more modest contributions by composers such as Michel Lambert.
Thanks to Louis XIV, who chose the subject, Lully’s Amadis has the distinction of being the first French baroque opera based on a medieval story rather than the usual mythological one. The music was not only well-received, but two of Lully’s most famous arias originate in Amadis, including the sumptuous Amour que veux-tu de moi? La Simphonie du Marais’s live performance is excellent and certainly deserves the acclaim they’ve received.
Louis XIV liked to have background music while he ate a meal. And in the baroque that meant live music. His court composers were obligated to come up with pieces that were good for such general occasions (you can imagine, as well as ones that were good for digestion). Michel-Richard Delalande composed many suites of dances that were intended for the king’s suppers. La Simphonie du Marais’s complete recording on the French Harmonia Mundi label is beautiful and puts forth a terrific performance.