Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Le Jardin de Monsieur Rameau - Les Arts Florissants

Le Jardin de Monsieur Rameau with Les Arts Florissants, directed by William Christie, reissued as part of a series by Harmonia Mundi.   Like a garden, where different plants are combined for maximum display,  this recording is a bouquet of selections from Rameau, Gluck, Campra, Pignolet de Monteclair, and others, arranged to highlight the variety of 18th century form.  In this delughtful bouquet or sounds, well known perennials blend with relative rarities and dramatic colours alternate with the more discreet : an excellent introduction to the rest of the Harmonia Mundi series reissuing Les Arts Florissants recordings. This selection was first heard during the Rameau anniversary year when Les Arts Florissants  were joined by soloists  (Daniela Skorka, Emilie Renard, Benedetta Mazzucato, Zachary Wilder, Victor Sicard and Cyril Costanzo) from their academy, Le Jardin de Voix. Michel Pignolet de Montéclair's Jephté, (1633) was written a hundred and twenty years before Handel's oratorio on the same subject. The opera was based on a biblical text, at a time when the concept of combining religion and theatre was controversial.  Thus the Overture is surprsingly exuberant, the mood reinforced here by the air "Riez sans cesse!" with its jolly chorus, the orchestra singing along, repeating the melody, followed by a more decorous trio "du quel nouveaux concerts". where the woodwind consort sounds delightfully archaic.  Swiftly the mood changes back to more typical adventures in classical antiquity. Les Arts Florissants combine the well-known  "Quel doux concerts" from Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie (1733)  (which Christie conducted at Glyndebourne), with "Quelle voix suspend mes alarmes" from Hercules mourant (1761) by Antoine Dauvergne.  This latter is lyrical yet elegaic, the strings in the orchestra sweeping gracefully decorated by woodwinds.

Religion  allegory and comedy ! The miniature Cantate rien de tout (the Cantata of Nothing at all" by Nicholas Racot de Grandval, pits mock elegance with wit.  The singer duets with flutes "Quoi!" she shouts then bursts into laughter and changes her tune (literally) into dance accompanied by bells like the bells on the shoes of a folk dancer.  The strings attempt to  restore decorum but to no avail.  "Aimiez-vous!" the singer cries and the orchestra wells up forceful chords.  Frilly trills and a short sharp ending "Rien de tout!"

More high spirits with three airs from La vénitienne, a comédie-ballet from 1768, by Antoine Dauvergne. Cyril Constanzo sings the qdrunkard who dreams up a drama : the orchestra explodes with thunder and wind effects.  Gradually the drunk falls into a stupor the winds and strings singing mock lullaby. The theme continues with extracts from Gluck's L'Ivrogne corrigé (1760). Glorious sound effects in the orchestra - baroque taste was not genteel but audacious.  Expressive ensemble singing (punctuated by percussion) the low male voices delightfully "drunk).   These mini-scenes are mixed by pieces by Rameau on similar themes. Les Arts Florissants and Christie conclude with a combination of André Campra's L'Europa galante (1697)  and Rameau's Les fêtes d'Hébé (1739) both opéra-ballets with allegorical imagery.   More Rameau too with selections from Dardanus. First  the rousing "Hâtons-nous, courons à la gloire", the orchestra zinging with energetic buzz behind the heroic tenor.  Low strings and winds introduce the récit "Voici les tristes lieux", followed by "Mais un nouvel éclat" and "Les biens que Venus nous dispense" which prepares us for Les Fleurs from Les Indes Galantes where the voices twine together in graceful harmony.

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