Absent the 4TH of July weekend, the Indianapolis Early Music Festival resumed its scheduled set of six concert programs this Friday with the appearance of the group who call themselves Les Délices (Delights), joined by soprano Shannon Mercer. Its storied-youth centered selection of seven pieces coming from the middle/late Baroque period featured excerpts of Jean Baptiste Lully (1632-1687) from his tragic opera Phaëton.
And it was the all-instrumental Suite from Lully's Phaëton which launched the program. Its "Ouverture," "Trio," and "Rondeau" contribute to the story of the youthful Phaëton, reckless son of Apollo, who reeked havoc on the earth during his uncontrolled carriage ride and had to be put down by his father. Helping dispatch this youthful folly were a recorder, oboe, two violins, a viola da gamba, a theorbo and a harpsichord.
This was followed by Sonata III from Amusements pour la chambre (1718) by François Duval (1672-1728). Continuing the tale of Phaeton and his misguided rambunctiousness appears in the work's fourth part: "Rondeau gay" as told by the two violins, theorbo, and harpsichord. All seven players, adding soprano Shannon Mercer to the group, returned to perform Handel's Cantata Tra le fiamme--the story of Phaëton and Icarus who flew their chariots too close to the sun, with terrible consequences for both. Mercer blended singing and vocalizing to a farthing.
Following intermission we had introduced Jean Féry Rebel (1666-1747) and his Troisième (Third) Sonata, L'Apollon which saw the full player complement tell the story of a youthful Apollo.
This was followed by more selections from Lully's Phaëton: "Il me fuit, l'inconstant," "Ah Phaëton, est il possible" and "Témoin de mon constance." The first selection, "Il me Fuit," a lament built on an ascending ground bass, is especially strong, musicwise.
Moreover, the final two selections provided the strongest music of the evening: the Cantatille Hebé by Louis LeMair (1693-1750) and the Chaconne from Lully's Phaëton. Mercer's vocal control in the former number was nothing short of astonishing while the instrumentalists managed the chaconne with ultimate precision. In fact, this seven year old ensemble blended the entire program with both elan and gusto. July 8