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Rameau: Les Surprises De L'amour / Zanetti, Macleod

Rameau / Zanetti / Macleod
Release Date: 03/08/2011 
Label:  Alpha Productions   Catalog #: 176   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Jean-Philippe Rameau
Performer:  Monique ZanettiStephan MacLeod
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble A Deux Violes Esgales
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

RAMEAU Les Surprises de l’Amore Monique Zanetti (sop); Stephan MacLeod (bbar); Ens à Deux Violes Esgales (period instruments) ALPHA 176 (66:43 Text and Translation)

The main reason for this disc is implied in the short essay on the cover portrait of Princess Anne-Henriette (1727–52); she is pictured with her favorite instrument, a bass viol. This work by painter Jean-Marc Nattier (1685–1766) places the young girl in performance pose, and also shows a transcription of Read more Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Les Surprises de l’Amore , one of those popular compendia of short scenes typical of the opéra-ballet enjoyed by the French aristocracy during the reign of Louis XV. The original was produced in 1748 for Madame Pompadour and performed at Versailles, and while it bored the King to tears, apparently it was successful enough for Rameau to mount it at the Opéra several years later. For this, however, the more intimate scenes were enlarged and extra material in the form of a one-act entrée titled Anacréon was added.

Even though it was popular for only a couple of years with constant revision, the work made an indelible impression upon the audiences. It also attracted the attention of the international nobility, at least in Prussia, for viol player Ludwig Christian Hesse (1716–72) was prompted to make an arrangement for chamber ensemble consisting of a pair of viols and continuo. Rediscovered only in 2007, this seems to have been a compendium of four of Rameau’s revisions done over time. Thus it is a “final” version that was intended for the chamber soirées at the court of Frederick the Great, a combination of vocal music and dances for entertainment. The entrées are the L’Enlèvement d’Adonis , consisting of the overture, a flowing ariette-recitative, and a rondeau; Anacréon , with four vocal excerpts interspersed with dances; La Lyre Enchantée , a more complete ballet, though there are two airs; and Sibaris , which also is a complete miniature. The music is lyrical and gracious, with the vocal portions containing a plethora of intimate ornamentation, and the two viol parts some lovely dissonances. It is thoroughly galant music in the original French sense of the word, never obtrusive, never overtly emotional, and always polished. The overture to Adonis features scurrying viols, some nice sequencing, and double-stopping, while the contradance that concludes La Lyre has a nice added tambourine that gives the lively turning theme added rhythmic emphasis. The “Air des Gladiateurs” from Sibaris begins solemnly and deliberately, with each line suddenly beginning to tumble over the other in a depiction of the games. The following chaconne has nice textural contrasts, with the second viol sometimes playing the bass line and sometimes filling out the harmony. The growling lower registers of the Forlane are a nice foil to the jig-like upper lines.

The sound of this recording is absolutely outstanding. Monique Zanetti has a nice ethereal sound, with crisp ornamentation. Stephan MacLeod’s bass-baritone has a rich sound that complements the accompanying viols well. The playing by the duo sometimes makes it sound like there are more than two, and the continuo is a nice, discreet background. Of course, Rameau’s work has been recorded with larger forces by Marc Minkowski and his Musiciens du Louvre on an old Erato disc, and Christophe Rousset with Les Talens Lyriques on L’Oiseau-Lyre back in 1997; both are fine recordings. This one, however, brings the entire work back into the comfort of the drawing room, making it intimate. Although Rameau fans will probably opt for the original version, Hesse’s arrangement is a wonderful way to spend an evening and highly recommended.

FANFARE: Bertil van Boer
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Works on This Recording

Les Surprises de l'Amour by Jean-Philippe Rameau
Performer:  Monique Zanetti (Soprano), Stephan MacLeod (Bass)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble A Deux Violes Esgales
Period: Baroque 
Notes: Arranger: Hesse. 

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