Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

LABELS: Harmonica Mundi
WORKS: Castor et Pollux
PERFORMER: Colin Ainsworth, Florian Sempey, Emmanuelle de Negri, Clémentine Margaine, Christian Immler, Sabine Devieilhe, Philippe Talbot, Virgile Ancely; Ensemble Pygmalion/Raphaël Pichon

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Raphaël Pichon shapes the 1754 version of Rameau’s tragédie en musique with élan. The recorded sound is exquisite from the brilliant overture, with its agitated, athletic figures for oboes and bassoons, to the battle music of Act I, the ghostly chromatics of Act II, the floral seductions of Act III, the demonic dances of Act IV and the astral Act V ballet, as the brothers who cannot bear to be separated by death are granted incorporeal immortality. Ensemble Pygmalion’s choir, orchestra and reduced ensemble of two violins, three cellos and two harpsichords play and sing with uncommon variety of timbre and attack, and with a real sense of engagement with the drama. The hegemony of Les Musiciens du Louvre-Grenoble, Les Arts Florissants and Les Talens Lyriques in this repertoire is over.

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Emmanuelle de Negri delivers a plangent account of Télaïre’s Act II lament ‘Tristes apprêts, pâles flambeaux’, holding enough in reserve for the heart-rending argument in Act V. Clémentine Margaine is a characterful Phébé with a powerful, coppery chest voice. Sabine Devieilhe is luxury casting in the tiny but deliciously written roles of Cléone, Une Ombre heureuse and Une Suivante d’Hébé. There is promising work from tenor Philippe Talbot (Un Athlête, Mercure, un Spartiate), whose coloratura sounds more secure than that of Colin Ainsworth’s unsteady Castor, while baritone Florian Sempey is a sympathetic and eloquent Pollux. Though the Underworld never sounds as terrifying as it does in Hippolyte et Aricie, this is a compelling and polished performance. Anna Picard