Notes and Editorial Reviews
It’s about French Baroque culture. That’s the important fact to keep foremost in mind regarding this album; all else follows. So there should be no surprise at the lengthy article on Jean-Marc Nattier, whose fine painting, “Marie-Adélaide of France as Diana” adorns the jewel box, both in full and detail; or another lengthy article, devoted to excerpts from Hubert Le Blanc’s clever and amusing 1740 work, Defense of the Bass Viol Against the Encroachments of the Violin and the Pretensions of the Violincello. If you want to actually hear it spoken, never fear: 11 plus minutes of this disc are given to a reading of those same excerpts in their native tongue—very well, I might add, by Benjamin Lazar, who treats this lushly lyrical
material with the respect and affection such as only a lover might give to their companion, or a Frenchman, to his language.
Then onto a shorter, but fascinating article on Rameau by Debussy (who, if I recall correctly from something read many years ago, was once thrown out of an opera performance for repeatedly shouting, “Vive Rameau, à bas Gluck!”). Of course, there is an insightful article on Rameau as well, with an emphasis on his place as “The French spirit of music,” to quote the text. This is a cultural nationalism that one can forgive, just as you can permit some collector to balloon with pride while displaying the finest items in his personal horde. The quality of the exhibit is worth the price of the admission.
As for the music on this release, a glance at the contents will show a mix of cantatas and concerts (drawn from the Pieces de Clavecin en concerts) featuring flute, viol, and harpsichord. It’s an album that delivers through its emphasis on variety what we might experience live in performance, rather than the kind of format completeness we expect from studio-based CD. Yet this is a studio CD; and the distribution of musical material makes for comfortable listening in a single session, with plenty of textural diversity.
Les Musiciens de Monsieur Croche is a relatively small group, with nine participants (if you count speaker Lazar and soprano Karine Deshayes, as I have). They are experts on their respective instruments, and through their flexibility of phrasing clearly understand that Rameau’s theatricality isn’t limited to his vocal works. Pacing is slightly on the relaxed, moderating side in the concerts, as compared with a very fine version led by Blandine Rannou on ZigZag HM 49x4. I prefer Rannou’s more mercurial “La coulicam,” but Les Musiciens de Monsieur Croche provide a “Tambourins” that is fleet of foot; while they also do a professional job adapting appropriate ornamentation to the tender melancholy of “La livri.”
In the cantatas, this group’s leisurely style of performance is less of an advantage, especially in the case of Le berger Fidèle, where they can be compared with Les Musiciens du Louvre under Marc Minkowski (Archiv 449 211-2). Minkowski is more sensitive to the dramatic content of the cantata, where a single soprano is called upon to act as narrator and impersonate a variety of human and deific roles. His tempos display slightly greater variance: so that the difference between the slower, self-critical recitative “Mais c’est trop me livrer” and the cheerful, self-confident air that follows it, “L’Amour qui règne dans votre âme,” is marginally less pronounced and consequently less interesting under Les Musiciens de Monsieur Croche. While both ensembles employ original instruments or copies, it is Minkowski’s version that makes greater use of timbral color; and he opts for a pitch one half-tone lower than Les Musiciens de Monsieur Croche. The sopranos are both excellent, Véronique Gens for Minkowski, Karine Deshayes on our current album.
With fine, close-up sound, complete French texts, and English translations, don’t be put off by the Le Blanc recitation. Even at roughly one hour’s worth of music, this is still an enjoyable recording of Rameau by an ensemble that one hopes will appear more often on recordings in the future.
Barry Brenesal, FANFARE
Works on This Recording
Le berger fidèle by Jean-Philippe Rameau
Karine Deshayes (Soprano),
Benjamin Lazar (Voice),
Alain Buet (Bass)
Les Musiciens de Monsieur Croche
Written: 1728; France
Thétis by Jean-Philippe Rameau
Benjamin Lazar (Voice),
Alain Buet (Bass),
Karine Deshayes (Soprano)
Les Musiciens de Monsieur Croche
Written: circa 1715-1718; Clermont-Ferrand, Fr
Defense de la basse de viole contre les entreprises du violon et les pretentions du violoncel (excerpts)
Pieces de clavecin en concerts: Concert No. 5 in D minor: I. Fugue La Forqueray
Pieces de clavecin en concerts: Concert No. 5 in D minor: II. La Cupis
Pieces de clavecin en concerts: Concert No. 5 in D minor: III. La Marais
Le berger fidele: Recitative: Prest a voir immoler l'objet de sa tendresse - Aria: Faut-il qu'Amarillis perisse
Le berger fidele: Recitative: Mais c'est trop me livrer a ma douleur mortelle - Air: L'Amour qui regne dans votre ame
Le berger fidele: Recitative: Cependant a l'autel le Berger se presente - Aria: Charmant amour, sous ta puissance
Pieces de clavecin en concerts: Concert No. 1 in C minor: I. La Coulicam
Pieces de clavecin en concerts: Concert No. 1 in C minor: II. La Livri
Pieces de clavecin en concerts: Concert No. 1 in C minor: III. Le Vezinet
Thetis: Prelude - Recitative: Muses, dans vos divins concerts - Aria: Volez, tirans des airs, aquilons furieux
Thetis: Recitative: Neptune, en ce moment au gre de sa fureur - Aria: Partez, volez brillants eclairs
Thetis: Recitative: Quel aveugle transport vous guide - Air: Beautes! Qu'un sort heureux destine
Pieces de clavecin en concerts: Concert No. 3 in A major: La Lapopliniere
Pieces de clavecin en concerts: Concert No. 3 in A major: La Timide
Pieces de clavecin en concerts: Concert No. 3 in A major: Premier Tambourin - Deuxieme Tambourin en Rondeau
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