Rameau: Cantatas (complete)

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LABELS: ASV Gaudeamus
WORKS: Cantatas (complete)
PERFORMER: Rachel Elliott (soprano), James Gilchrist (tenor), Roderick Williams (baritone), Thomas Guthrie (bass); New Chamber Opera Ensemble/Gary Cooper
The New Chamber Opera Ensemble made an impact upon me a year ago with its first recording for ASV of Charpentier’s Le mariage forcé and Les fous divertissements. Now it follows that release with a two-disc set of Rameau’s complete cantatas – seven of them, with two versions of Aquilon et Orithie – and it is another fine effort that puts them at the very forefront of the youngest generation of practitioners of period-style performance. Each cantata is a beautifully distilled scene, rather more than mere proving ground for Rameau’s operas (all but the Cantata for St Louis’s Day, of around 1740, predate them). And as one might expect there are many delights to be found in the instrumentation, a department in which Rameau excelled all his contemporaries. Gary Cooper, who directs from the harpsichord, shapes every phrase with a sure instinct and unfailing elegance, knowing exactly when to push the music onward, when to indulge his listeners, and his vocal team – Rachel Elliott, James Gilchrist, Roderick Williams and Thomas Guthrie – sing with the easy flowing lines and deft ornamentation that this lovely music demands. Stephen Pettitt