According to my good friend Wikipedia, the Concert spirituel was one of the first public concert series in existence. The concerts began in Paris in 1725 and ended in 1790. The series was founded to provide entertainment during Lent and on religious holidays when the other spectacles (the Paris Opera, Comédie-Française, and Comédie-Italienne) were closed. The programmes featured a mixture of sacred choral works and virtuosic instrumental pieces, and for many years took place in a magnificently-decorated Salle des Cent Suisses (Hall of the Hundred Swiss Guards) in the Tuileries Palace. They started at six o'clock in the evening and were primarily attended by well-to-do bourgeois, the lower aristocracy and foreign visitors. Jordi Savall brings these magnificent evenings back to life, thanks to an imaginary 'concert spirituel' programme featuring 3 major composers from Italy, Germany and France : Corelli, Telemann and Rameau. This album enables us to (re)discover the quintessence of the musical life during the reign of Louis XV. Enrico Onofri recently appeared at the Lufthansa Baroque Festival directing the European Union Baroque Orchestra and his own Ensemble Imaginarium.
"It seems like every disc has to have a gimmick these days: a title, a "concept", or some such, particularly Baroque music collections. This disc has one that's actually musical rather than programmatic, but more importantly, the selection of pieces is splendidly varied and expressively wide-ranging, and the performances are absolutely stunning. What makes them so special is that they remind us that authenticity and timbral beauty aren't mutually exclusive. The strings in particular have a rich, velvety timbre, particularly in the Corelli and the Telemann D major Suite, that's light-years from the desiccated rasping that so often passes for historically informed performance these days.
It's impossible to point to specific highlights; the music is all so delightfully done. The Rameau suite really dances. It's central storm is aptly pictorial, but also musical, and the two Tambourins close the program with joyous vigor. The Flauto Dolce in the concerto really does sound sweet, and not just breathy; and the two solo flutes in the Tafelmusik overture work harmoniously together to create a charming sonic tapestry. Savall opens the program with the Corelli, making us wish that he would record a complete set of the Op. 6 Concerti grossi. Pellucid engineering complements the performances perfectly, offering warmth without excessive resonance, and letting the players shine. Outstanding!" - David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com