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Early Music Today (12/2014- 02/2015)


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Reviewer:  Graham Lock

Les Fêtes de l'Hymen et de l’Amour, the 1747 ballet héroique, is among Rameau's less well‑known works, although Hervé Niquet's new recording ‑ the only version currently available ‑ makes a persuasive case for its many allures. Rameau had initially titled it Les Dieux d’Égypte but, before being performed, it was selected as part of the marriage festivities for the Dauphin and Maria Josepha of Saxony. Rameau added a prologue suitable for a wedding, in which Cupid (Love) and Hymen (Marriage) reach a new accord, and renamed it accordingly. The three subsequent entrées still feature Egyptian gods (Osiris, Canope and Aruéris respectively) in amorous dalliances with Amazons and nymphs, and, as was expected, include much dancing, exoticism and spectacle. A high point is the onstage flooding of the Nile in Act 2, in which Canope emerges from the waters in ‘a chariot drawn by crocodiles’. Rameau's music rides the waves with a similar panache!

There is some superb singing here, particularly from soprano Chantal Santon‑Jeffery, high tenors Mathias Vidal and Reinoud Van Mechelen, and bass Tassis Christoyannis, all in multiple roles. Rameau's richly detailed orchestrations sometimes lose a degree of clarity in the live recording, although overall Le Concert Spirituel does an outstanding job with the sumptuous score and its beguiling stream of song, speech and dance. 

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