Opera is not a genre that I often dip into, but this one is different. I have always enjoyed the Baroque period, and Henry Desmarest (1661-1741) certainly left his mark with Venus and Adonis. The remarkable French harpsichordist and conductor Christophe Rousset and the dynamic period-instrument ensemble Les Talens Lyriques have a passion for musical discovery and adventure, exploring – on stage and on recording – fascinating yet still virtually unknown operas and orchestral works from the 17th and 18th centuries. Recorded live in April and May 2006 at the Opéra national de Lorrraine, France, Henry Desmarest’s “lyric tragedy,” Vénus & Adonis comes to life.

Venus and Adonis has an interesting history, the composition was originally written in England by John Blow in circa 1683, Desmarest  produced a libretto in about 1697. For those of you not ‘up’ with the term libretto, Mr Blow wrote the music, and Mr Desmarest added the words.

As I remarked earlier, opera is not really my favorite, but there is something wonderful about the baroque period, I am not sure if it is the music score itself, or the instruments that are used. There is something truly unique in the baroque style. Actually it is a joining of musical styles, and musical instruments that instantly takes you back to an earlier time.

I was immediately attracted to this double CD because of the use of the Harpsichord. This is the sweetest, most rewarding keyboard instrument I can think of. It is a string based contraption like the piano, in fact it even resembles a piano, but, and it is a huge but, instead of banging the strings with a hammer, the harpsichord plucks the strings. The sound is light, haunting, and unique. I have no doubt that musical scholars would disagree with me, but I have always felt that this was a most wonderful period of musical composition, with the tune dominating and the chords just along for the ride, almost added as an afterthought.

Venus and Adonis is well worth a test drive, the boxed set contains a comprehensive set of sleeve notes both in French and English. You can purchase Christphe Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques version of this wonderful piece of Baroque history from Amazon.

Simon Barrett


Be Sociable, Share!