"Every soul and spirit were in his harpsichord," dramatist Alexis Piron wrote about his friend Rameau. Listeners of today are often more inclined to prefer his operas. However, there is a wealth of wit, wisdom and joy in Rameau's harpsichord works. This collection of the complete 'Pièces pour clavecin', performed by Bertrand Cuiller with his customary finesse and passion, illuminates all of the beauty and virtuosity of these works. Bertrand Cuiller devotes his recital career to the solo harpsichord repertory, with a particular penchant for the English composers William Byrd and John Bull, whose music he has recorded for Mirare and Alpha.
Rameau was almost 50 when he wrote Hippolyte et Aricie and there was little in his life to suggest he was about to embark on a major new career as an opera composer. He was famous for his works on music theory as well as books of harpsichord pieces. The closest he had come to writing dramatic music was composing a few secular cantatas and some popular pieces for the Paris fairs for his friend Alexis Piron. Yet Rameau's eagerness to write an opera is shown by a letter he wrote in October 1727 to Antoine Houdar de La Motte asking for a libretto. It was a strange choice; once famous for providing the texts to such works as André Campra's L'Europe galante (1697) and Marin Marais's Alcyone (1706), Houdar de La Motte had written nothing for the musical stage for almost 20 years. Nothing came of the request and there is no record of any reply, but the fact that Rameau carefully preserved his own letter among his personal papers proves how much the project must have meant to him.
This programme completes the Comédie et Tragédie project with Tempesta di Mare, and consists of suites made up of orchestral excerpts from three dramatic works of the French stage, spanning seventy-three years, all highlighting the importance of dance as a part of drama.
A midprice reissue collecting this young French pianist s three baroque recordings. I fell in love with Tharaud s Rameau disc several years ago and never once missed the rattling sound of the harpsichord. Tharaud points out that Rameau s frequent ornamentation would have served to prolong notes on a harpsichord. This isn t necessary on a modern piano, and there s an incredible delicacy to the pianism here, with the trills and turns played with a barely credible lightness of touch. It s infectious stuff, with the witty character pieces from the Suite in G vivid and alive.
The exciting and vigorous talents of Sébastien d Hérin and Les Nouveaux Caractères announce their debut on Glossa with a major and appropriately unexpected release of a glaring Rameau operatic omission on record: 'Les Surprises de l Amour' (Cupid s Surprises). This opéra-ballet, consisting here of three separate entrées, first performed in 1748 and submitted to later revisions, comes from the period of Jean-Philippe Rameau s rich maturity when he had finally become a court composer.
Pieter-Jan Belder has made over 100 recordings, including the complete Telemann Tafelmusik for Brilliant Classics, and this set is part of his project to record all of Rameau’s keyboard music. On this 3CD set are Rameau’s great sets of pieces for keyboard – Pièces de Clavecin en Concerts of 1741, the Pièces de Clavecin of 1705 and 1724, and the Nouvelle Suites de Pièces de Clavecin of 1726. In the centuries that have passed since his death in 1764, he has been consistently praised by composers such as Debussy (‘A composer I cannot recommend strongly enough is Rameau’ he wrote in 1903), Hindemith, Tartini, D’Indy, and Gluck – what a variety! All wrote of their indebtedness to him, and acknowledged his influence.
It is only a short while since I reviewed a suite of dances from Rameau's opera, Nais. Now, hard on the heels of that disc (also conducted by McGegan, Harmonia Mundi, 7/95) comes a reissue of the entire work, albeit with judicious cuts. Nais was commissioned to celebrate the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748, and first performed the following year. Thus it was a vocal counterpart to Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks, both pieces marking the conclusion of the War of the Austrian Succession. The present recording was made in 1980 following performances at London's Old Vic Theatre and at Versailles under the auspices of Lina Lalandi's enterprising English Bach Festival.
In 1745, the king granted Jean-Philippe Rameau the position of Composer du cabinet du roy, which came with a pension. This new period would see productions in a lighter vein, in collaboration with the librettist Louis de Cahusac, and some of the Burgundian musician's most important masterpieces. 'Zaïs', performed in 1748 on the stage of the Académie Royale de Musique, is one of them. This ballet-héroïque gave French music one of its finest works.