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Opera Extracts - Released February 23, 2018 | harmonia mundi

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Gramophone Editor's Choice - Diamant d'Opéra - Choc de Classica - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
With his ensemble Pygmalion, Raphaël Pichon has written the listing for this album in the form of a "pastiche" of a Mass for the Dead, a Requiem both sacred and profane. While it is a long way from having all the defining traits, it does possess all the outlines: Introit, Kyrie, Gradual, Sequence, Offertory, In Paradisum... The idea came about after a recent discovery, in the Bibliothèque Nationale of an anonymous requiem mass from the 18th century, in which the writer constructed a "parody" based on musical extracts from Castor and Pollux and the Fêtes de Paphos by Jean-Philippe Rameau. Note that the term "parody" doesn't necessarily imply satire or mockery: it refers to the practice of taking up older music and setting new words to it. This fusion of sacred music (the mass) and profane music (lyrical tragedy), a common practice during the Enlightenment, was a procedure that Pichon wanted to take up. In French society at the time, when Catholicism was the norm, where the political system was monarchical rule by divine right, the representation of ancient pagan Hell on theatrical stages seemed to betray a fascination in the beliefs of the ancients. And so this programme melds together pagan fable with a Christian imaginary, where Hell takes on different faces. It is the place of unjust and eternal torment, a place of privation where a couple is separated, one half kept in Hades. But, in the lyrical tragedy, Hell is also a place of perdition: obscure forces unleashed in Sabbath rites, a Satanic vision which unearths the darkest depths of the human soul... Stéphane Degout is the author of this tragedy, bringing together such varied characters as Phaedra, Pluto, and the Parcae. The composers whose music is put to use are Rameau and Gluck, with a single borrowing from Rebel: it would have been a shame not to mention his singular Chaos (taken from Éléments), which starts with a dissonant chord containing the seven notes of the scale of D minor. © SM/Qobuz

Full Operas - Released September 3, 2015 | Aparté

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Choc de Classica - Choc Classica de l'année
In 1745, the King of France granted Jean-Philippe Rameau the title of ‘Composer to the Court’, coupled with a healthy pension. This new period produced pieces of a much lighter character, with Rameau working alongside the librettist Louis de Cahusac, and the resulting collaborations are now counted amongst the Burgundian musician’s greatest masterpieces. Zaïs was presented on the stage of the Royal Academy of Music in 1748. This heroic ballet offers French music some of its most beautiful movements, both vocally and instrumentally. The entire work is a meditation on its famous opening chaos, and succeeds, surprisingly, through its theatrical stamp and in the audacity of the writing. The plot is, perhaps, tenuous – a lover (Zaïs) is in the throes of affection for his beloved (Zélidie), determining to cherish her – which serves as the pretext for endless entertainment, dancing, and the work’s magical character. Today, it remains surprising that a work as sumptuous as Rameau’s Zaïs is neglected in favour of the Indes Galantes or Hippolyte et Aricie. It is paradoxical, then, that in 1970 Gustav would combine the small amount of French music he truly appreciated with a reassessment of the beauties of this work. Gustav created a fascinating recording with La Petite Bande Sigiswald Kuijken (STIL), which has now become a true rarity, despite its questionable vocalists. Happily for us, Christophe Rousset, who cherishes Rameaus’s older work, has dedicated himself to it, and offers us this gorgeously captured rendition, with French singers working under the direction of his sharp and witty leadership. The opening of the Les Talens Lyriques recital is far more vivid than anything that has been achieved in over twenty years for L’Oiseau-Lyre, in which the Ouverture immediately sets the tone. Rousset completely captures the brilliance of the score, and his imagination – which here seems insatiable – liberates his singers, who are boundlessly invested in this work; complicit in a musical resurrection. An enchantment of sorts? No. A whirlwind, rather. © Qobuz

Chamber Music - Released February 23, 2015 | Mirare

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - Choc de Classica - Exceptional Sound Recording

Classical - Released September 1, 2017 | Aparté

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Record of the Month - Choc de Classica - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Jazz
Christophe Rousset and the Talens Lyriques bring us to the stage of the Royal Academy of Music where Pygmalion, an act of ballet by Jean-Philippe Rameau inspired by an episode of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, was created in 1748. Love, showing empathy for Pygmalion’s despair of loving a statue, invigorates the sculpted woman who immediately falls in love with her creator. Very suggestive, the music of this tender and mischievous ballet deploys the grace of 18th century dances. Like Ovid’s Love, Christophe Rousset instils life in this score, one of Rameau’s greatest successes in his day, and offers us, thanks to his sense of drama and his impeccable leadership, a new and essential reading of this ballet. © Aparté

Classical - Released March 1, 2001 | Alpha

Booklet Distinctions Choc de Classica

Classical - Released October 7, 2014 | Glossa

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Choc de Classica
Jean-Philippe Rameau originally conceived Les Fêtes de l'Hymen et de l'Amour as a ballet héroïque on the subject of the Egyptian gods. Pragmatically, he later adapted it to celebrate the royal marriage of Louis, Dauphin of France to Maria Josepha of Saxony. This 2014 Glossa release marks the 250th anniversary of Rameau's death, though the music is far from gloomy. Le Concert Spirituel, under the direction of Hervé Niquet, performs the ballet in delightful Baroque style, with rhythmic precision, scintillating ornamentation, and fresh sonorities, and the re-creation of Rameau's score has all the elegance and panache one would expect of a courtly entertainment. The vocal writing is quite florid and fanciful, but the French cast is a joy to hear, even though the mythological libretto is quite stilted and almost nonsensical by modern standards. Recorded in Versailles, the sound is extraordinarily clear, vibrant, and detailed, so audiophiles are in for a treat, even though the format is standard CD. Highly recommended for fans of Baroque theater works. © TiVo

Opera - Released February 10, 1992 | harmonia mundi

Booklet Distinctions Choc de Classica

Classical - Released August 1, 2011 | Alia Vox

Booklet Distinctions Choc de Classica - Choc Classica de l'année - The Absolute Sound: Best New Releases Of The Year

Classical - Released March 12, 2009 | Alpha

Distinctions Choc de Classica
It's hard to tell from the gorgeous cover of this French release what you're getting into, and, as the booklet notes point out, Rameau is a tough nut to crack for most people anyhow. Stick with it, however, for the entire package here offers what may be the closest thing yet to a good introduction to Rameau, even if it gets rather involved. You could start with the painting on the cover, annotated, as with all the others in this series from the Alpha label, by Denis Grenier of Laval University in Quebec. François Boucher's "The Setting of the Sun" (1752) is both conservative and radical, and the same could be said of Rameau's music. The painting is packed with mythological detail, almost abstruse, yet just as important as the set of classical references but the dramatic pattern of light and shadow into which the entire painting breaks down. Rameau is the same way: both complicated and shocking. It's a hard combination to get a grip on, but the French group Ausonia and director Fréderick Haas clarify it with an unusual kind of program: a set of excerpts from two different operas. Zoroastre, a tragedy, and Zaïs, a pastoral. It's a great idea: the excerpts are not simply isolated selections but connected items that represent a chunk of musical thinking. The two operas form a contrast of darkness and light, as well, and they offer some of the really striking instrumental effects that kept drawing audiences to Rameau's operas even as simpler Italian fare was clearly establishing itself as the wave of the future. The depiction of chaos and dawn from the Prologue of Zaïs (tracks 1-4) is an excellent example, and it rivals any of the better-known treatments of the same ideas from the eighteenth century. Ausonia consists of two superb soloists and 10 instrumentalists, plus Haas conducting from the harpsichord keyboard, and all have obviously immersed themselves in this music. As with all the Alpha releases, the listener who focuses on this one will get a bit of an education in the history of French culture, and this class session is an especially useful one. All texts are given in French and English. © TiVo

Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released September 8, 2014 | INTERARTS

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Choc de Classica

Ballets - Released April 3, 2013 | Paraty Productions

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Choc de Classica - Hi-Res Audio