LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Orchestral Suite from Naïs; Orchestral Suite from Le temple de la gloire
PERFORMER: Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra/Nicholas McGegan
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 907121 DDD
These two suites are quite simply superb. Their blend of elegance and fiery imagination make them compulsive listening and provide still more evidence, if any were needed, that Rameau is quite worthy of comparison with Handel. The overture to Naïs has hardly been out of my CD player; starting with nervous sequences it erupts into wild syncopation more characteristic of Slavonic nationalism than Parisian propriety. While the rest of the suite follows a more familiar pattern, none of the dances are less than ear-catching and some, notably the broad Chaconne, are full of evocative detail.
The music from Le temple de la gloire – taken from an opera ballet commemorating the victory of Fontenoy – is more dignified, but is richly rewarding. McGegan’s interest in French music has deep roots. Interpretatively he does not put a foot wrong. His instinctive feel for tempi and unfailingly elegant sense of inégalité is shared by the band. The playing is not without blemish, but the sheer sense of fun and stylish commitment of these performances, and, not least, the music itself, puts this CD into the top category.