Rameau: In Convertando; Pièces de clavecin; documentary ‘The Real Rameau’

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Rameau
LABELS: Opus Arte
ALBUM TITLE: Rameau
WORKS: In Convertando; Pièces de clavecin; documentary ‘The Real Rameau’
PERFORMER: Nicolas Rivenz, Sophie Daneman; Les Arts Florissants/William Christie
CATALOGUE NO: OA 0956 D
PRESENTATION: ***

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The tendency to divide top honours

in the high Baroque between Bach

and Handel seems most unfair when

Rameau is on the menu. What an

astonishing musical imagination!

As Handel penned the Fireworks

music for the English to celebrate

the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle of 1748,

Rameau was doing similar duty for

the French with Naïs, surely one of

the most colourful and innovative

operatic scores of the first half of the

18th century. Clearly the producers

of this DVD share my enthusiasm,

but do not quite deliver complete

conviction. The performance of the

early, breathtakingly inventive motet,

In convertendo, is mostly excellent,

though the audio track does not

always quite match the visuals, and

how often would one want to watch a

performance in which camera angles

take us quite so close to conductor

and soloists?

The chamber performances

are also good, but again one asks

whether DVD the most appropriate

medium. The documentary on

Rameau has much charm and offers

some sound historical insights. But

while full of fascinating information

and abundant, well justified plaudits

from the participants, I doubt it

will bear repeated viewing. William

Christie’s enthusiastic advocacy and

excellent performance of some of the

keyboard music notwithstanding,

what is needed are more excerpts

from the operas. There are some

excellent ones, notably from Platée,

Les Paladins and Les Boréades, but

this particular bran tub could do

with a few more goodies for full

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satisfaction. Jan Smaczny