Jean-Marie Leclair, a pure product of the 18th century, was at the crossroads of styles, cultivating a virtuosic art combining melodies à la française and Italian virtuosity stemming from Corelli and Vivaldi. He was 49 when he undertook his first (and only) lyric tragedy: Scylla et Glaucus. In the greatest French tradition, this work combines sumptuous numbers of sentimental outpourings with frightening scenes of fury and terror, in which the orchestra, with forceful passages, plays a dazzling role.
In late February 1653, just after the Fronde rebellion, the most influential spectacle of the early reign of Louis XIV was created at the Louvre: the Ballet Royal de la Nuit. Grandiose, and carefully elaborated at the highest levels of the state, the libretto by Bensérade called upon the finest artists of the time. Banishing the troubles of Night, Louis XIV danced in the Sun King costume that would henceforth be for ever associated with him. An indispensable world premiere recording!
This 35 disc set is jam packed with thrilling, beautiful - and superbly recorded - music.
Tchaikovsky's "Big Three" are very well represented here. Dutoit's lushly lyrical and dramatic "Swan Lake", Bonynge's affectionate and inspired "Sleeping Beauty" (listen out for grumpy Carabosse's distant thunder rumbling in the Act II Symphonic Entr'acte!) and a version of "The Nutcracker" - Bychkov and the Berlin Philharmonic, which is brilliant, full of character and sparkle.
Taj's Blues is an entertainingly diverse record, featuring a variety of blues and roots-music styles, all fused together into a distinctive sound of its own. Half of the album is played on acoustic, the other with an electric band (which includes guitarists Ry Cooder and Jesse Davis on a handful of tracks), which gives a pretty good impression of the range of Mahal's talents. It's a good collection, featuring many of his best performances for Columbia, including "Statesboro Blues" and "Leaving Trunk," as well as the unreleased "East Bay Woman".