RAMEAU Dardanus: Suite. Le Temple de la gloire: Suite • Jeanne Lamon, cond; Tafelmusik Baroque O (period instruments) • TAFELMUSIK 1012 (67:12)
This arrived as a companion to Tafelmusik’s recording of Handel’s Royal Fireworks Music, which, with any luck, will be found reviewed elsewhere in this issue. Like that CD, this one is not new either; it was recorded in 2001 and originallyRead more released by CBC Records. Unlike the Handel disc, however, which was reviewed by Bernard Jacobson in Fanfare 21:5 when it initially appeared on Sony Classical, this Rameau CD does not appear to have been previously reviewed here.
As you can see from the headnote, this is not Rameau’s opera Dardanus, but an extended suite of 16 orchestral numbers taken from it. For a review of the complete opera, see entries by Brian Robins in 24:1 and Barry Brenesal in 31:5. Fortunately for me, since the recording at hand offers only the score’s overture and a generous helping of its set dances, I don’t have to deal with the labyrinthine twists and turns of Dardanus’s unwieldy plot or the infighting and even physical brawling that ensued between factions loyal to Rameau and those supporting Lully. From what I’ve read, things got pretty down and dirty, worse even, perhaps, than the infamous onstage slapping, hair-pulling, and nasty name-calling disturbance of the dueling divas that arose between sopranos Cuzzoni and Faustina during a performance of Bononcini’s Astinatte at London’s Haymarket Theatre in 1726.
One would be well advised to forego fluid intake before a performance of Dardanus, for as its critics complained, the opera was so stuffed with notes that for three hours there wasn’t time enough to sneeze. If it’s true, as the movie Amadeus has it, that the Emperor Joseph II thought there were too many notes in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, he’d have been carried out unconscious and wet from a performance of Rameau’s Dardanus.
The good news is that the suite recorded here lasts a mere 37 minutes and is a treat of pure terpsichorean delight. Ballet still played a central role in French Baroque opera when Dardanus came into being in 1739, and based on the evidence of these dance movements, Rameau invested a good deal of effort into capturing the musical essence of their steps. Lamon and Tafelmusik do likewise in performances that pirouette and plié with stylish elegance and flair.
No doubt exhausted by the trials and tribulations surrounding Dardanus, Rameau swore off opera for the next four years, concentrating on revisions and other projects. But in 1745 he received a number of commissions, among which was one for a short, one-act opera-ballet for the court’s entertainment. For the occasion, Rameau offered Le Temple de la gloire, a work on which he’d collaborated with Voltaire. It’s a tale of three kings, each seeking access to the Temple of Glory. The first two are turned away, but the third, obviously intended to personify Louis XV, is granted entrance. The story also doubles as a thinly disguised allegory on the relationship between the King and his mistress, Madame de Pompadour. It seems not to have occurred to the well-meaning Rameau that Louis’s wife, Queen Marie, and her children would be there. Oops. As one writer put it, “Rameau’s intended tribute was received with little enthusiasm.”
Rameau was one of music’s greatest—perhaps the greatest—master of the dance, and the two suites offered on this CD will keep your feet tapping for more than an hour. I continue to marvel at the robustness of Tafelmusik’s playing, noted in my review of the ensemble’s Handel album. This is a recording for those who hate period instruments (or think they do), because Tafelmusik’s mastery of them is of such consummate technical and artistic skill that you may well believe you’re listening to modern instruments. This whole disc is a joy from beginning to end.
FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
How can you not thrill to Rameau's dance music? Its sheer physicality was unequalled in the Baroque period, and there's so much color and invention packed into these two suites that it's hard to know where to begin. Listen to the festive overture to Le Temple de la Gloire, with its galloping horns and exuberant trills that take over the entire orchestra from the timpani and lower strings right up through the flutes, or to the imposing Chaconne that concludes the music from Dardanus. There's always something to captivate the ear, and Rameau is about as far away as possible from conventional "sewing-machine" Baroque music.
Of course, these suites have been recorded before, and very well at that – most notably by Nicholas McGegan for Harmonia Mundi and Conifer; but this is the first time that they have appeared together, and the pairing is apt. Dardanus is darker and more subdued as befits its tragic subject, and Le Temple de la Gloire is all celebratory brilliance. The general excellence of Jeanne Lamon and her Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with their previous recordings for various labels. The horns play both boldly and accurately, the flutes and oboes combine good intonation with attractive tone, and the strings never acquire that ugly, authentic-instrument scratchiness. Toss in fine engineering and the result is a winner in every way.
– David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com, reviewing original release Read less
Le temple de la gloire: Suiteby Jean-Philippe Rameau Conductor:
Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra
Period: Baroque Written: 1745; France
Average Customer Review: ( 2 Customer Reviews )
Great StuffMay 26, 2013By Richard H. (Glendale, AZ)See All My Reviews"Have you heard of George Frederick Handel, Antonio Vivaldi, JS Bach? SURE!! How about Jean Philippe Rameau? Nope, not me. Judging by this music his name sure belongs in that company. These works are bright, colorful, short, sweet and to the point. A few of the tracks actually reminds me of the symphonies by William Boyce. This is a great find in my quest for 'music by composers I've never heard of' and belongs in any Baroque library."Report Abuse
amazingly beautifulAugust 15, 2012By Linda G. (Los Angeles, CA)See All My Reviews"I have not taken this CD out of my Bose player since I got it several weeks ago, and I have it playing on continuous mode every day. I love it all and cannot get enough of it. It is light, airy, cheery and just plain wonderful. I am a huge Vivaldi fan, and this is definitely running a close second."Report Abuse