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CD Spotlight

Sprightly tempos

Rameau ballet suites -
reviewed by
RON BIERMAN

'... intelligent performances.'

Jean Philippe Rameau: Platee, Pigmalion, Dardanus Ballet Suites. European Union Baroque Orchestra / Roy Goodman. © 2005 Naxos Rights International Ltd

Although Rameau never composed for orchestra alone, his more than 25 operas include overtures, and instrumental passages that accompany interludes for ballet. Today Rameau's most popular works include his orchestral arrangements of this material. Naxos here captures suites based on music from three operas. As you might guess from the name, and its conductor Roy Goodman, the European Union Baroque Orchestra performs on original instruments with minimal vibrato and sprightly tempos. They emphasize the dance-like nature of the music.

Every time I listen to Rameau I wonder why I don't do it more often, and that was indeed my reaction to these intelligent performances. This is highly melodic music with nicely varied tempos and orchestral color. At times, as in one of the menuets from the Platée Suite, it evokes the regal formality of Versailles where his operas were sometimes performed [listen -- track 2, 0:00-1:11]. More often it displays the lively energy that made Rameau so popular that the Paris Opera eventually limited his premières to two-a-year to allow other composers more opportunities to see their own works performed [listen -- track 4, 0:00-1:12].

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Copyright © 27 November 2005 Ron Bierman, San Diego, USA

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