Sunday, June 21, 2015

Jean-Philippe Rameau – La Guirlande

   Late baroque in France was the period of great improvements and multidirectional development. The absolute rule of Louis XIV, who was monarch for 72 years, was also the time for creating the modern, centralized country. Under the reign of Le Roi Soleil France was perfect place for creating new, original and in many cases futuristic solutions, thus cultural life during that period was characterized with tensions and changes in science, technology and arts. Also French music flourished with some new styles and esthetic ideas. One of most progressive composers and theorists of 18th century France was Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764), composer of operas, vocal music and harpsichord works. His operas and ballets were original stage works and he was one of most creative masters of musical theatre ever. His importance was confirmed with series of theoretical writings, opened with fundamental Treatise on Harmony Reduced to its Natural Principles (1722) and in next 40 years developed in works establishing rules of musical theory.
   Most successful part of compositions are harpsichord suites deciding Jean-Philippe Rameau is counted with François Couperin among masters of French school of harpsichord music in 17th century. It’s interesting he has not left any organ music. Almost three decades working on the post of church organist gave him enough experience to write Dissertation on Different Methods of Accompanying for Harpsichord and for Organ (1932). Nevertheless his harpsichord compositions are the clear evidence of his creative talent and cantatas were his early experiences with dramatic music. The best part of Rameau’s achievements is his operas and stage works. He was looking for solution of the balance between dramatic and musical narrative, giving more arioso character to recitative parts and more dramatic elements to arias. In Rameau’s improvements one can find the same spirit as in Wagnerian reform of opera.
Jean-Philippe Rameau – La Guirlande (1967)

   One act opera La guirlande, ou Les fleurs enchantées was composed in 1751, at the best moments of Rameau’s fame as the divertissement to his opera Les Indes Galantes. It was staged with the great success September 21st 1751 at the Paris Opera. The libretto by Jean-François Marmontel is a pastoral story taking its place in Arcadia. From the formal point of view this opera is an acte de ballet – a one act opera with many ballet fragments. The same form was described also as a pastoral ballet with vocal music. This short opera was first Rameau’s work reviewed in 1903, also with great appreciation. In sixties, after double-centenary of Rameau’s death, he was recognized as “French Bach” and played more often. Recorded in France by Versailles Chamber Orchestra under Bernard Wahl with the choir under direction of Elisabeth Brasseur with Claudie Saneva as Zelide and Jean-Jacques Lesueur as Mirtil, this opera was the one to start wider American recognition of dramatic works by Jean-Philippe Rameau. Earlier only instrumental works were published. In 1963 Westminster label published three volumes of Complete Harpsichord Works performed by Robert Veyron-Lacroix, one year after French complete recorded by Huguette Dreyfus for Valois label.
   In Europe Rameau was better known. Especially in France, where his dramatic works were performed on stage and as a part of professional singers training. In 1963 Archive Production (ARC 73 202) published complete acte de ballet Pigmalion. In 1964 La guirlande was recorded for Club Francais du Disque/Princeps (CFD 319). The following Nonesuch edition (H-71023) was released in 1967 with sole information album was “recorded in Europe by Club Francais du Disque, Paris”. Orchestra played with stylish professional sound and precise articulation is the basis for the performance. The same can be said about choral fragments although in some parts all voices can be heard separately without necessary cohesion. Some problems have soloists. Soprano sings with some strange mannerisms like sliding glissandos and blurred articulations. Also tenor has some problems with proper emission and sliding articulation, especially in upper register. Nice sounding voices, acting very well as characters, but weak in upper, spectacular parts of arias. This album is an interesting document of ancient music performing standards. However in many fragments this performance differs of sixties recordings of 18th century music, it still demands two and a half stars on a five-star scale.

No comments:

Post a Comment