Review: Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra's 'Versailles Revolution'

Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra artistic director Barthold Kuijken.

Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra

's season opener found artistic director Barthold Kuijken at the helm for another thoughtful program, leading an ensemble that seems to move together as one entity, fixed on the same musical goal. “The Versailles Revolution” chronicled the way in which Jean-Baptiste Lully and his disciples changed the face of music during the Baroque period, carving out a new place for the orchestra in opera and ballet.

Lully's Suite from Roland, a collection of dances which opened the show, is a study in contrasts. The faster movements have extraordinary energy and vitality. The slower ones have an equal amount of earthiness and gravitas. The IBO brought out those contrasts effortlessly.

Next up was Suite No 1 in D minor, “Nobilis Juventus”, by Georg Muffat, one of Lully’s students. This work had outre ornamentations galore, with trills in what seemed like nearly every measure, and with that came a particular relentless intensity. The orchestra took to those trills with zest, without allowing them to overwhelm the piece as a whole.

Then came Michel Blavet’s Concerto in A minor for flute for two violins and basso continuo, which lightened up the proceedings with its smaller ensemble. Kuijken’s flute playing was excellent, distinguished by his warm, velvety tone.

The evening ended with the wonderful Suite from Ariane et Bacchus, by another Lully student, Marin Marais. The orchestra handled each movement with the same integrity and intensity as they approached other pieces on the program, with Kuijken the consummate leader, shaping the music and giving it direction. Radiating an infectious joy, the ensemble left me wanting more. 

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