In a program entirely dedicated to French baroque music, Gotfried von der Goltz and his Freiburger Barockorchester invited French soprano Véronique Gens to add some authentic flavour to the proceedings. A wise choice, for this repertoire is not really known this side of the Rhine and it is good to have a regular of William Christie’s and Marc Minkowski’s recordings to run to in case of doubt. In any case, Gens must have adopted the famous “In Rome do as Romans do”, for the final results were a bit Germanic – albeit in a very positive way. For example, the comparison with Cristophe Rousset’s recording of Lully’s Roland shows the French conductor far more dance-like and varied, while the Freiburgers added a straightforward and propulsive quality that made the orchestral “highlights” rather coherent somehow. One could not avoid the same impression that the German musicians were gutsier and more incisive in the excerpts from Rameau’s Dardanus when comparing it to Minkowski’s more flexible and sensuous recording (with Véronique Gens as well). Curiously, the tambourin twinset is surprisingly more exciting in Minkowski’s exhilaratingly fast account. Unfortunately, I cannot compare both conductors in Rebel’s Les caractères de la danse, for Minkowski’s CD is deleted from the catalogue, but I suspect that the French conductor would have stressed the contrasts between the dances more vividly. In any case, Goltz was a clear-toned and vivid soloist in Leclair’s Concerto for violin op 7 no. 5.
Véronique Gens sang two items in the program – Montéclair’s cantata “Le dépit généreux” and the arias from Dardanus. In the cantata, her irresistibly sensuous and velvety tone, immaculate sense of style and crystal-clear diction worked to perfection, the “emotional journey” – from despair to peace of mind – well characterized. If Julia Gooding is far less impressive in Florilegium’s recording, their accompaniment is warmer and more colourful in compensation. In the Rameau items, she sang even more beguilingly in a tessitura that allowed her more creamy top notes in more intense a context too. As an encore, the audience was treated to Lully’s Venez, haine implacable from Armide, where the Freiburgers proved to be far more exciting than Rousset in his video from Versailles (with Gens too, an omnipresence about which nobody feels like complaining).