Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 5 Tracks 1-3
Isolated from the audience, the stage, and the rest of the opera, this overture has enough substance to stand on its own. Yet it does not. The work was intended to grab the listener's attention and prepare the stage. Because this piece does that so well, hearing it without the subsequent rewards, to my ears, is like being told about a party that one missed. Perhaps a truly authentic recording of this piece would include the noises from the listeners.
Nevertheless, this overture is effective because of the form. Competing with the restlessness of his audience, Lully has restrained his string players from being longwinded. The second virtue here is the distinctness of each section. Because each section has a unique character the audience is aware of the progress of the piece and entertained by the changes. Because the third, and final, section is the most contrasting, the audience is brought to the conclusion with a satisfying alertness.
What I like about this piece is the way it changes gears into that concluding section (located at track 3). Although the upper voices have dominated the narration of this piece, this is a moment for which the lower strings and continuo can proud. The octave leap up followed by a downward curve on the leading tone of the relative minor is not only good music, it is music that creates a change.
Read also Laura Gregory's comments on Lully's career