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This second release from Les Arts Florissants’ own label has two laudatory aims. The first is to celebrate and contextualise the ‘brilliant and innovative’ musical eloquence of Jean-Philippe Rameau on the 250th anniversary of his death. Associate director Paul Agnew has devised a programme of French baroque vocal music that places extracts from Rameau’s operas (Hippolyte & Aricie, Les Fêtes d’Hébé, Dardanus, Les Indes galantes) beside extracts by composers who influenced him (Montéclair, Campra) and were influenced by him (Dauvergne, Grandval, Gluck). He also arranges the extracts into sections that illustrate such crucial facets of 18th-century music as the ‘affect’, the burlesque and the dramatic. This is more fun than it perhaps sounds: the dramatic, for example, includes a storm scene, with eerily whooshing wind machine, and Anténor’s stirring aria to a sea monster, from Dardanus.

The disc’s other purpose is to present the latest class of soloists from the Jardin des Voix, Les Arts Florissants’ biennial academy for young singers. I especially enjoyed soprano Daniela Skorka’s touching aria from Dauvergne’s Hercule mourant and baritone Victor Sicard as both Rameau’s monster-defying Anténor and the fickle Silvandre from Campra’s L’Europe galante. But all six singers impress, both solo and in various ensembles, and Les Arts Florissants play this richly orchestrated, declamatory repertoire with their customary verve and flair.

Graham Lock Read the full review on Agora Classica


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Early Music Today, 2014 - ©Rhinegold Publishing