Rameau: Naïs

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Rameau
LABELS: Erato
WORKS: Naïs
PERFORMER: Linda Russell, Ian Caley, Ian Caddy, John Tomlinson; English Bach Festival Chorus & Baroque Orchestra/Nicholas McGegan
CATALOGUE NO: 4509-98532-2 ADDReissue
Rameau’s opera Naïs dates from 1749. Its prologue celebrated the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, signed in October of the previous year. Dramatically, Naïs is unremarkable, but its slender plot enabled Rameau to focus his attention on the divertissements. And what a feast of instrumental colour and rhythmic variety they contain, with ‘simphonies’ and ‘airs de ballet’ in Rameau’s headiest vein [see also a review of the Suite in Orchestral].

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Erato’s eagerly awaited reissue completes its impressive range of Rameau’s operas on CD. The recording was made in 1980 following performances at London’s Old Vic Theatre under the auspices of Lina Lalandi’s English Bach Festival. The conductor, Nicholas McGegan, has an intuitive feeling for French Baroque music and brings gracefulness and vitality to one of Rameau’s most musically alluring stage works. The cast is mainly a strong one, with bass John Tomlinson (Pluto), baritone Ian Caddy (Jupiter) and soprano Linda Russell in the title role making effective and, by and large, stylish contributions. Tenor Ian Caley (Neptune) is also impressive, though, as so often happens with Rameau’s music in this register, its highest reaches are not achieved without a hint of strain. Though in a comparatively early stage of their renaissance, the period instruments of the English Bach Festival Baroque Orchestra sound well, only the chorus sometimes failing to live up to the rest. But, as I say, it is the dances which are likely to afford the greatest pleasure, and the ‘Tambourin’ concluding Act I is as irresistible as any I know. Nicholas Anderson