Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV


Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV concert (The Royal Funerals of Louis XIV) performed 2015 at the Chapelle Royale in Versailles. Raphaël Pichon conducts the Ensemble Pygmalion. Features singers Céline Scheen (Soprano), Lucile Richardot (Mezzo-soprano), Samuel Boden (Countertenor), Marc Mauillon (Baritone), and Christian Immler (Baritone). Directed for TV by Stéphane Vérité. Released 2018, Grade: B+

For the 300th anniversary of the death of Louis XIV (the Sun King), the Palace of Versailles staged a concert featuring French music likely played during the various funereal ceremonies conducted for the King. Wonk Bryan Balmer has provided a complete list of all the music on 15 tracks that shows how hard the promoters of this concert worked in providing a feast for early music lovers. For those of you with short attention spans, below is a summary of the program.

  1. Lying in state: Jean Colin – Miserere, falso-bordone for 6 voices

  2. Funeral procession: André Danican Philidor - Drums and Funeral March for the King's Procession

  3. Office for the Dead: Michel-Richard de Lalande - De Profundis, Grand Motet

  4. Absoution & Burial: Jean Colin - Pie Jesu, plainsong and falso-bordone for 6 voices

  5. Fanfare: "Le Roy est mort ! Vive le Roy !"

  6. Funeral ceremony & first anniversary: Michel-Richard de Lalande - Dies Irae, Grand Motet

David Vickers, writing in the April Gramophone at page 104, goes all out for this "conjectural fantasy [which] affords creative license for Pygmalion and Raphël Pichon to create a beguilingly dolorous musical experience. . . Pygmalion's elegantly sensual orchestral playing and choral singing are sensational from start to finish." Juith Malafronte also chimes in on page 51 of the August 2018 Opera News praising the grand motets by Lalande in which "Five vocal soloists, the cream of Europe's early-music singers, blend beautifully yet bring individuality and commitment to their various solos." This has been a best-seller at MDT Classical Music.

But there is one aspect of this recording that we should warn you of: most of this recording was made in low-light and some of it was shot in near blackout conditions. Below are 7 screenshots (chosen at random) showing you what David Vicers meant by “dolorous”:


All this was shot in the same location as the Vespro della Beata Vergine recording we admired so much with Eliot Gardiner leading the Monteverdi Choir. The emphasis in the Gardiner recording with it’s brilliant lighting was, please understand, on joy rather than grief.

Wonk Balmer also did a careful study of video content in subject title with a Wonk Worksheet. Low lighting tends to force the videographer to move in close to the subject being recorded. Considering the huge lighting challenges faced here by Stéphane Vérité, we feel the video content is pretty good even if there are too many close-ups of soloists and too few large-scale shots. We also feel the pace of 10+ seconds per clip is commendable. We will bump up Balmers B- for video content to a B+ overall considering the glowing comments from everyone about the beauty of the singing.

We haven’t found a YT clip from this title.