Rameau: Les Indes galantes

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LABELS: Musiques à la Chabotterie
WORKS: Les Indes galante
PERFORMER: Valérie Gabail, Stéphanie Révidat, Reinoud Van Mechelen, François-Nicolas Geslot, Aimery Lefèvre; Le Choeur & Simphonie du Marais/Hugo Reyne


Recorded in just two days at the Vienna Konzerthaus, in rehearsal and performance, La Simphonie du Marais’s account of Les Indes galantes features playing of great tenderness, vivacity and buoyancy. It sounds and reads like a labour of love from director, oboist and recorder player Hugo Reyne and musicologist Nicolas Sceaux, whose collaborative edition of Rameau’s 1735 opéra-ballet of French, Polish, Spanish and Italian innocents adrift in the exotic climes of Turkey, Peru, Persia and Louisiana is also available online.

With only six vocal soloists, a tight schedule and over three hours of music, some patchiness is inevitable. Soprano Stéphanie Révidat sags in pitch at the cadences as an otherwise charming Hébé, Emilie and Zaïre. Hautes-contre (high tenors) Reinhoud van Mechelen and François-Nicholas Geslot flag and rally and flag again. Yet coloratura soprano Valérie Gabail and bass-baritone Aimery Lefèvre complete their marathon without breaking sweat and deliver a scintillating account of ‘Forêts paisibles’ with the small, clear-toned chorus.

The energy, wit and colour in Gabail and Lefèvre’s emphatic repetitions of the word ‘Ciel!’ are a lesson in French Baroque style. It’s not all trills and twiddles and swung rhythms. It’s about bite and snap and rhetoric, and an elusive balance between softness and attack. Reyne’s strings and woodwind achieve this beautifully, never losing propulsion, with subtle continuo playing from harpsichordist Yannick Varlet and forthright percussion in the dances.


Anna Picard