Rameau Archive

Editorial for August, 2018

Editorial for August, 2018

Rameau — Le Temple de la Gloire Rameau’s masterwork — Le Temple de la Gloire (The Temple of Glory) — has been given new life, presented in the original version Rameau intended, for the first time since the opera’s 1745 premiere, with the magnificent libretto by Voltaire.  This version is based on the original manuscript, housed at U.C. Berkeley’s Hargrove Music Library; this multi CD set is from the performances at U.C. Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall, co-produced by Cal Performances and Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles, representing a collaboration years in the making. The version of this ballet héroïque that has been heard up until now is the second version which was substantially changed by Rameau to take into account the Parisian public’s aversion to moral maxims, and their preference for love scenes. Voltaire originally wanted this to be a philosophical reform of opera:  an allegory around the idea of the temple of glory, a grandiose spectacle with moral and political overtones. This original 1745 version is much more spectacular, and its originality in the history of Enlightenment Theater calls for a twenty-first-century restaging. To enter in the drawing for Rameau’s  Le Temple de la Gloire merely fill out the […]

TEN BEST CLASSICAL OF 2017 – II

TEN BEST CLASSICAL OF 2017 – II

Best of the Year Classical List for 2017 Recommendations by Fritz Balwit   Bela Bartok: Complete String Quartets – Heath Quartet – Harmonia Mundi 907661.62 This young quartet has achieved the highest levels of concentration on this complete set of the quartets. All aspects of Bartok, from prickly agitation and folk humor to serene contrapuntal abstraction, are perfectly rendered. There is real excitement in the playing and the soundscape is outstanding. This recording narrowly edges out a release by the superb Chiara quartet, which, uniquely, plays the music without scores.     Bjarte EIKE: The Ale-House Sessions – Rubicon 1017 This recording, reviewed on these pages this past summer, has only gotten better with repeated listening. Bjarte Eike has succeeded in presenting a frothy, joyous and surprising repertoire of Purcellian inspired fiddle music to popular audiences. The fiddlers can bawl out sea-shanties as well, but when Mr. Eike turns his bowing talent to a lament, there won’t be a dry eye in the house. Grand fun and superb musicianship. Star rating has been upgraded to *****! Link to Review   DVORAK & SCHUBERT: String Quartets “Death and the Maiden” & “American” – The Dragon Quartet – Channel Classic 39417 Four […]

TEN BEST CLASSICAL OF 2017 – II

TEN BEST CLASSICAL OF 2017 – II

TEN BEST CLASSICAL OF 2017 – Fritz Balwit Bela Bartok: Complete String Quartets – Heath Quartet – Harmonia Mundi 907661.62 This young quartet has achieved the highest levels of concentration on this complete set of the quartets. All aspects of Bartok, from prickly agitation and folk humor to serene contrapuntal abstraction, are perfectly rendered. There is real excitement in the playing and the soundscape is outstanding. This recording narrowly edges out a release by the superb Chiara quartet, which, uniquely, plays the music without scores.   Bjarte EIKE: The Ale-House Sessions – Rubicon 1017 This recording, reviewed on these pages this past summer, has only gotten better with repeated listening. Bjarte Eike has succeeded in presenting a frothy, joyous and surprising repertoire of Purcellian inspired fiddle music to popular audiences. The fiddlers can bawl out sea-shanties as well, but when Mr. Eike turns his bowing talent to a lament, there won’t be a dry eye in the house. Grand fun and superb musicianship. Star rating has been upgraded to *****! Link to Review   DVORAK & SCHUBERT: String Quartets “Death and the Maiden” & “American” – The Dragon Quartet – Channel Classic 39417 Four young Chinese musicians, who have established […]

“The Unbroken Line” = DEBUSSY: Images; Preludes; RAMEAU: Castor et Pollux; Nouvelles Suites – Jeffrey LaDeur, piano – MSR Classics

“The Unbroken Line” = DEBUSSY: Images; Preludes; RAMEAU: Castor et Pollux; Nouvelles Suites – Jeffrey LaDeur, piano – MSR Classics

“The Unbroken Line” = DEBUSSY: Images I; Preludes II; RAMEAU: Selection from Castor et Pollux; Selection from Nouvelles Suites – Jeffrey LaDeur, piano – MSR Classics MS 1654, 69:39 [Distr. by Albany] ****: An interesting concept that rings quite true. Jeffrey LaDeur is a widely performing artist who is also the founder of the noted Delphi Trio and Founder and Artistic Director of the New Piano Collective, a consortium of internationally renowned pianists. Debussy is somewhat in his blood as he returns to Weill Hall in 2018 to commemorate an ongoing survey of the composer’s music in the anniversary of the year of his death. Here he attempts to make, in very erudite album notes, an association of Debussy’s admiration for the music of Rameau, and even his musical construction based upon some of that of the earlier artist. He certainly is correct when asserting that Debussy was interested in maintaining and developing the “pure” French tradition, especially when opposing it to the then pervasive—and some would say, persuasive—influence of Wagner. But I am afraid that the concept fails to emerge in a formidable manner on this disc, simply because there is not enough Rameau here to make the case. […]

Daniel HOPE: “For Seasons” = Music of VIVALDI, BACH, RAMEAU, RICHTER, TCHAIKOWSKY, BRAHMS – Daniel Hope (v.)/Zürcher Kammerorchester – DGG

Daniel HOPE: “For Seasons” = Music of VIVALDI, BACH, RAMEAU, RICHTER, TCHAIKOWSKY, BRAHMS – Daniel Hope (v.)/Zürcher Kammerorchester – DGG

Very creative and highly entertaining but unusual! Daniel Hope, “For Seasons” [Track List follows] – Daniel Hope, violin/Zürcher Kammerorchester – Deutsche Grammaphon DGG 479 6922, 79:33, (3/03/2017) ****: The first – and certainly not even the most captivating – thing that catches your attention about this wonderfully eclectic and entertaining collection from violinist Daniel Hope is his arrangement (a “reimagining”) of Vivaldi’s iconic The Four Seasons. Is The Four Seasons simultaneously the best known and most potentially boring work for violin and orchestra ever?  I have heard some say so and I think certainly it can be (boring, that is) but not in this dynamic and even aggressive rendition by Hope. Tempos are extreme, rallantandos and accelerandos are inserted where they do not exist in the original and volumes are exaggerated for effect. Daniel Hope’s playing is spectacular throughout and he makes a strong case to show that just a little (or a lot) bit of liberties taken with this violin icon can bring new excitement and daring to the work. Hope’s rendition will frustrate the purist but would arguably thrill audiences and the uninitiated listener. This whole album is a collection of relatively short works which, collectively, depict or […]

MONDONVILLE: Trio Sonatas – Johannes Pramsohler/ Ens. Diderot – Audax

MONDONVILLE: Trio Sonatas – Johannes Pramsohler/ Ens. Diderot – Audax

MONDONVILLE: Trio Sonatas Op. 2 – Johannes Pramsohler/ Ensemble Diderot – Audax 13707, 67:22 (11/8/16) ****: World premier chamber music from the twilight era of the French Baroque led by researcher/performer Johannes Pramsohler. (Johannes Pramsohler- violin/ Roldan Bernabe – violin/ Kristen Huebner – transverse flute/ Gulrim Choi – baroque cello/ Philippe Grisvard – harpsichord) Johannes Pramsohler, the leader of Ensemble Diderot, has dedicated a couple of recent recordings to unknown or neglected works from the Baroque period. Early Music fans will certainly welcome the findings, especially as in this case, they consist of the most central chamber music of the time–the trio sonata–and are by a composer who is not at all a minor figure, Jean-Joseph Mondonville. How these pieces have lain about unnoticed is beyond me, for they are quite good. Mondonville was the director of the Concert Spirituel around the middle of the century and is known primarily as a composer of grand motets. His instrument, however, was the violin, which is the dominant voice the works under review here. Mr. Pramsohler plays a Rogeri 1713 baroque violin, which blends nicely with Roldan Bernabe’s 1992 instrument modelled on a period violin. In fact, it is occasionally hard to […]

RAMEAU: Dardanus (complete opera), Blu-ray (2016)

RAMEAU: Dardanus (complete opera), Blu-ray (2016)

Rameau is always worth seeing as well as hearing, even in a piece as whacky as this. [This is our free drawing for October!] RAMEAU: Dardanus (complete opera), Blu-ray (2016) Performers: Reinoud Van Mechelen (Dardanus)/ Gaëlle Arquez (Iphise)/ Karina Gauvin (Venus)/ Florian Sempey (Anténor)/ Nahuel Di Pierro (Teucer, Isménor)/ Katherine Watson (Un Songe/ Amour)/ Etienne Bazola (Berger)/ Virgile Ancely (Un Songe)/ Guillaume Gutiérrez (Un Songe)/ Ensemble Pygmalion/ Raphaël Pichon Producer: Michel Fau Studio: Harmonia mundi/PIAS 9859051.52 2015 Video: 16:9 HD 1080i fir 16:9 Audio: PCM stereo 2.0, DTS-HD MA 5.1 Subtitles: German, English, French No region code Length: 3 hr. 12 min. 24 sec. Bonus: Dardanus: Behind the Scene (Blu-ray only), 20 min. Rating: **** Dardanus is opera number six out of the composer’s 30-odd creations in the genre. The court of Louis XV was a gaudy, irascible time for spectacular productions—the kitsch present in this age is something that many directors have attempted to avoid or at least soften. Not here. This production embraces it as a legitimate and even beautiful expression of style that so marked the transitional time between Rameau and Lully, rivals at the time, but more exacerbated by their followers. In fact, after the 1739 […]

FRANÇOIS COUPERIN: Leçons de Ténèbres; DE BROSSARD: Trio Sonatas; Stabat Mater – Lucy Crowe & Elizabeth Watts, sops./ La Nuova Musica/ David Bates – Harmonia mundi/PIAS

FRANÇOIS COUPERIN: Leçons de Ténèbres; DE BROSSARD: Trio Sonatas; Stabat Mater – Lucy Crowe & Elizabeth Watts, sops./ La Nuova Musica/ David Bates – Harmonia mundi/PIAS

FRANÇOIS COUPERIN: Leçons de Ténèbres; SÉBASTIEN DE BROSSARD: Trio Sonatas; Stabat Mater – Lucy Crowe and Elizabeth Watts, sopranos/ La Nuova Musica/ David Bates – Harmonia mundi/PIAS HMU 807659, 70:20 (9-9-16) *****: Francois Couperin vs. Jean-Phillipe Rameau. Strange to think that François Couperin, harpsichordist to Louis XIV, and Rameau, the other great French harpsichordist of the time, may never have met. It would have been an interesting meeting; their music is so different, Couperin’s more delicate, more filigreed, perfumed, reflective, splendid, whereas Rameau’s was like that too, but definitely more drop-dead brilliant. For decades, Couperin lived as the more important of the two, more relevant to the original-instrument discoveries of our modern age that were spearheaded by keyboard players and instrumentalists in general, but recently as opera from all periods has become huge international business, Couperin eclipsed the younger virtuoso, in large part part if not primarily due to the spectacular pomp and circumstance of the big moments, the irresistibly catchy nature of his dance tunes, and the melting beauty of his romance. For decades, Fr. Couperin lived as the more important of the two to our modern age, but recently he has been eclipsed the younger virtuoso, in large part part […]

“Les Elements: Tempests, Storms, and Marine Festivals” = Music of LOCKE, MARAIS, RAMEAU, REBEL, TELEMANN & others – Jordi Savall – Alia Vox (2 discs)

“Les Elements: Tempests, Storms, and Marine Festivals” = Music of LOCKE, MARAIS, RAMEAU, REBEL, TELEMANN & others – Jordi Savall – Alia Vox (2 discs)

A highly effective and illuminating concept album of thrilling dimensions. “Les Elements: Tempests, Storms, and Marine Festivals” = LOCKE: Music from The Tempest; MARAIS: Suite No. 4 “Airs pour les Matelots & les Tritons”; RAMEAU: Air pour les Zephirs (from Les Indes Galantes); Orage et air pour Boree (from Les Indes galantes); Tonnerre (from Hippolyte Et Aricie); Zoroastre: Contredanse; Zoroastre: Contredanse très vive; REBEL: Les Élémens; TELEMANN: Overture (Suite) TWV 55:C3 in C major for wind, strings & continuo ‘Hamburger Ebb und Fluth’ (‘Wassermusik’); VIVALDI: Flute Concerto, Op. 10 No. 1 in F major, RV 433 ‘La tempesta di mare’ – Le Concert des Nations/ Jordi Savall – Alia Vox multichannel SACD AVSA 9914 (2 discs), 49:45, 48:59 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****: Jean-Fery Rebel’s The Elements is one of the major representations of the expression of fiery and descriptive portrayals in music ever, not just the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as emphasized on this release. In fact, it is the representation of chaos, one of the first important forays into the world of tone painting. Lully and Marais were heavily invested in this genre, seeing it as a rousing and enticing signification to the audience, ever alert to the […]

RAMEAU: The Sound of Light – Music from Les Fêtes d’Hébé, Zoroastre, Platée, Les Indes galantes, Les Boréades, Naïs, Hippolyte et Aricie, Castor et Pollux, Dardanus and Six concerts en sextuor – Nadine Koutcher, sop./ Alexei Svetov, bass / MusicAeterna Orch. & Choir/ Teodor Currentzis – Sony Classical

RAMEAU: The Sound of Light – Music from Les Fêtes d’Hébé, Zoroastre, Platée, Les Indes galantes, Les Boréades, Naïs, Hippolyte et Aricie, Castor et Pollux, Dardanus and Six concerts en sextuor – Nadine Koutcher, sop./ Alexei Svetov, bass / MusicAeterna Orch. & Choir/ Teodor Currentzis – Sony Classical

RAMEAU: The Sound of Light – Music from Les Fêtes d’Hébé, Zoroastre, Platée, Les Indes galantes, Les Boréades, Naïs, Hippolyte et Aricie, Castor et Pollux, Dardanus and Six concerts en sextuor – Nadine Koutcher, soprano/ Alexei Svetov, bass / MusicAeterna Orchestra & Choir/ Teodor Currentzis – Sony Classical 88875014502, 67 mins. (2/3/15) ****(*): A quick look at the list of mostly operas and opera-ballets by Jean-Philippe Rameau from which trending Teodor Currentzis made his pick tells you it better be flashy because it sure ain’t deep. And so it is: flashy, brilliant and relentlessly passionate. In other words, totally appropriate to Rameau, which makes The Sound of Light a fabulous, stunning introduction to the world of perhaps the greatest Technicolor French composer from the 18th century who has not yet become a household name in the United States. To track this quickly, check out the sheer radiant, sublime beauty of Nadine Koutcher singing an aria about love, death and the passing of light from Castor et Pollux; the exhilarating virtuoso orchestral explosions in Zoroastre and Platée; and the iconic drum dance from Dardanus.  Interpretively, Currentzis leads his MusicAeterna forces, which include a full symphonic complement of more than 40 violins, […]