Rameau: Les cyclopes

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Rameau
LABELS: Avie
ALBUM TITLE: Rameau
WORKS: Les cyclopes
PERFORMER: Trevor Pinnock
CATALOGUE NO: AV 2056
Three stars jostle for the spotlight in this recording: Trevor Pinnock, his 1764 harpsichord and Rameau. Having championed this music since the 1970s, Pinnock now celebrates his command by re-recording a selection of favourites on a historic instrument. The result is riveting.

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The instrument inspires Pinnock into phrases more elegant, rhythmic patterning more precise, and passion more profound. Its unusually rich timbres also entice him into vigorous attacks where extremes of register are contrasted by Rameau to paint a character, as in ‘Les cyclopes’. To revel in specific features of this harpsichord, such as the dulcet tone of its stopped strings, Pinnock stretches his tempos more daringly than in his earlier recordings for CRD. The crisp definition of the recording faithfully transmits the unique qualities of the Goerman harpsichord.

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Pinnock is best in pieces of a serious character; he tends to pass over the humour embedded in lighter numbers. Gigues lack the forward momentum with which they are usually associated, a ‘Villageoise’ assumes a melancholy un-pastoral air, and the celebrated pecking of the ‘Poule’, while brilliantly conjured up, is remorseless. For those seeking whimsy, Sophie Yates’s recent Chandos account stands out among alternative recordings of these works. But those who revere sophistication and sheer beauty of sound should choose Pinnock. Berta Joncus