RAMEAU: L’Orchestre de Louis XV: Suites D'Orchestre – Jordi Savall – Alia Vox (2 discs)

by | Oct 27, 2011 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

RAMEAU:  L’Orchestre de Louis XV: Suites D’Orchestre – Le Concert des Nations / Jordi Savall –  Alia Vox multichannel SACDs (2 discs) AVSA9882  57:03, 50:50 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] *****:
Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764) came to prominence as a composer quite late in life.  Indeed, had he lived only as long as Mozart, we would know very little about him.  His parents had hoped he would have a career in the law, but his musicianship won through; he was sent from Dijon to Milan for further study and eventually started his working life as an organist, first in Avignon then Clermont-Ferraud, before moving to Paris.  From contemporary accounts, he seems to have been something of a teacher’s nightmare at school, his boisterous behaviour manifesting itself in singing in class instead of working at his lessons.  As an adult, he was thought to be a loner, preferring his own company for much of the time.  He married the young singer and instrumentalist Marie-Louise Mangot when he was in his late 40s and she not yet 20, and the happy couple had four children.
The four works, “instrumental suites or symphonies”, presented on this stunningly good new release from Alia Vox postdate these events by some years.  The earliest work Les Indes Galantes, an opera-ballet héroïque, dates from 1735 and remains one of his most popular works.  After a break in writing, Rameau’s output in the 1740s and 1750s produced an avalanche of masterpieces, and included here are suites from Naïs (1749) and Zoroastre (1749), as well as that from his last work, the tragedy Les Boréades (1764),  which had its first concert performance in 1963, and its first staged performance in 1982.
At odds with Rameau’s quiet and obsessive adult personality is his music, on the one hand bright and breezy with a sensation of the outdoors, and on the other, tremendously exciting and dramatic, and tugging the heart in its tragic writing.
Le Concert des Nations, an orchestra of about thirty players under Jordi Savall, uses instruments of the period, and the results here are of the highest order in all departments.  Rameau’s use of percussion provides a variety of textures, none more so than in Les Vents a movement from Les Boréades, and the natural horns make a wonderful sound.
Recorded in 2010 and 2011 at the Collégiale de Cardona in Catalonia and at La Grande Salle de l’Arsenal in Metz, France, the sound quality is superb.  That almost goes without saying concerning Alia Vox productions, of course, but the naturalness and unforced quality,  the sense of air and space around the performers, especially in the very fine multichannel version, still amazes with its fidelity.
The substantial, well-illustrated and informative booklet is exemplary though I would prefer the booklet to be detachable from the digipak.  All this life-enhancing music comes at budget price, too. For me, this is certainly a disc of the year.
Les Indes Galantes  1735 – Suite d’orchestre
1.    Ouverture
2.    Musette en Rondeau
3.    Air vif
4.    Air des Incas pour la dévotion du Soleil
5.    Air pour les amants qui suivent Bellone*
6.    Air pour les guerriers*
7.    Menuets pour les Guerriers et Amazones I & II
8.    Orage*
9.    Air pour les esclaves africains*
10.  Air pour Borée et la Rose*
11.  2ème Air pour les Zephirs*
12.  Tambourins I/II *
13.  Chaconne
Naïs  1748 – Suite d’orchestre
14. Ouverture
15. Musette tendre
16. Rigaudons I /II
17. Sarabande
18. Gavotte pour les Zéphirs
19. Loure
20. Musette
21. Tambourins I/II
22. Entrée des Luteurs
23. Chaconne
24. Air de Triomphe
Zoroastre  1749
1.    Ouverture
2.    Passepieds I/II
3.    Loure
4.    Air des Esprits Infernaux II
5.    Air tendre en Rondeau
6.    Air Grave
7.    Gavotte en Rondeau
8.    Sarabande
9.    Contredanse
Les Boréades  1764 – Suite d’Orchestre
10.    Ouverture
11.    Entrée
12.    Entrée des Peuples
13.    Contredanse en rondeau
14.    Les Vents
15.    Gavotte I & II pour les heures et les Zephirs
16.    Menuets I- II
17.    Contredanse très vive
—Peter Joelson

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