LABELS: DG Archiv
WORKS: Iphigénie en Tauride
PERFORMER: Mireille Delunsch, Simon Keenlyside, Yann Beuron, Laurent Naouri, Alexia Cousin; Les Musiciens du Louvre & Chorus/Marc Minkowski
CATALOGUE NO: 471 133-2
Orfeo ed Euridice may be Gluck’s most popular opera, but it is the story of Iphigénie en Tauride that inspired the composer to the greatest heights of musical and dramatic expression, and perhaps Marc Minkowski’s superb new recording will bring the latter a wider appreciation than it currently enjoys.
John Eliot Gardiner’s 1985 Philips recording has long held pride of place, beating off even the competition of last year’s fine Telarc version from Martin Pearlman and Boston Baroque. But Minkowski’s has even greater incisiveness, immediacy and bravura. Sometimes his effects are startling: the terrifying thwacks of bows on strings in Thoas’s ‘De noirs pressentiments’, the bloodthirsty choruses of Scythians and Turkish-style dances that follow, the extra notch of intensity he brings to every number (in spite of his lower pitch). But he also brings exquisite sensitivity to bear in situations of emotional tenderness, and it is here that his Iphigénie, Mireille Delunsch, has the edge over Gardiner’s Diana Montague. Delunsch’s plaintive inflections in ‘O toi qui prolongeas mes jours’ (as Iphigénie pleads for her life to be taken away) melt the heart, while her virtuoso ‘Je t’implore’ in Act IV is thrilling, especially with Minkowski’s marvellously dynamic accompaniment – a real showstopper. Simon Keenlyside is also excellent as Oreste, while Yann Beuron and Laurent Naouri give strong support as Pylade and Thoas.
Minkowski’s penchant for idiosyncrasy gets in the way only once, with an opening dance that is surely too funereal (only Pearlman has both a suitable tempo for this minuet and the right lift on the third beat). But then comes the stormy Allegro with piccolo shrieks (instrumental colouring is vibrantly drawn throughout), leading to Iphigénie’s electrifying entry and then, as for Orfeo, there’s no looking back.