The present recording presents the dance music by Michel-Richard de Lalande for the comedie-ballet Les Folies de Cardenio by Charles-Antoine Coypel, performed in 1720/21.
The performances by Ensemble Baroque de Limoges are stylish, played with engaging rhythmic lilt, poise, and, where invited, convincing characterization. Characterization particularly comes into play with the exotic dances, such as the “Air pour les Chinois” and the “Air pour les Pagodes,” both using imaginative scorings and, in the case of the Chinese air, col legno battuto, all to good effect. In dances like the “Air des Combattants,” the percussion—one of the delights of the recording, in general—recreates the clank of sword play in an congenially dramatic touch. Many of the dances are rather more generic, however, and this raises a question about the program itself.
The recording isolates the dances from a theatrical context and from the visual partnership with dancing, and it asks a lot of a succession of short, often generic pieces to stand alone, as the recording requires. Of the forty-one tracks, only one, the overture, is longer than three minutes; many are under a minute in duration. No matter how splendid the performances or how charming the pieces, this many miniatures strung together for nearly an hour will frustrate attentive listening to the whole; the transplant from the context-rich, original environment to the audio isolation of the CD is a difficult one and imposes demands on the music that seem foreign to its nature. Taken as an “archive in sound”—“these are the dances for Les Folies de Cardenio”—the recording is a successful document, without question. Taken as a program, however, I recommend smaller doses to maximize the delight.