The French Baroque and Me

I was thinking about French baroque opera a little more. I don’t really have a lot of experience with it. The only such opera I have ever seen live was Rameau’s Platée at the New York City Opera (remember the NYCO?) in like 2003 or 2004. I remember it being colorful and pretty fun. The countertenor they had dressed up the frog suit as Platée was kind of a riot. I believe there is a chorus towards the end where repetitions of “bon” or “c’est bon” are made to sound like a frog croaking? I also have a bright memory of Christine Brandes as Folly nailing some fairly gnarly coloratura.


20130731-230146.jpg My music collection does not contain much in the way of 17th or 18th century French music – among the few things I do have is this recording of excerpts from Rameau’s operas by Carolyn Sampson and Ex Cathedra. A lot of it is very pretty – and it includes the “rossignols amoreux” aria from Hippolyte et Aricie that I heard the other night. I listened to this recording again last night because I hadn’t heard it in ages. Other highlights are the interplay of the woodwinds (oboe and bassoon, I think) with the soprano part in the arias from Les Indes Galantes.

20130731-233303.jpg There is also this from Les Concert des Nations under Jordi Savall. It’s mostly Corelli and Telemann, but there’s a suite of dances from Les Indes Galantes at the end which reveals yet again how charming Rameau can be. As per earlier discussion, I think in the end it is probably unfair to Rameau to lump him in with Lully and leave it at that. (Though I have to say, in terms of repeated intensive listening, I would probably break for Corelli over Rameau.)

And I nearly forgot! Early music BAMF Paul O’Dette also has a CD of the lute music of baroque French composer Nicholas “Who?” Vallet, which I fell asleep during on an airplane once. Through the magic of the iPod I just began listening to it again just now. It’s quite pleasant and I am definitely still awake.

8 thoughts on “The French Baroque and Me

  1. inspired by your post i clicked on this link and have been *totally* hooked… (minkowski + rameau). for these early music pieces in general, i think it works for my brain when the orchestra and conductor can bring out the various layers of music with clarity and contrast. it can be at any tempo i think. I can sit listening to Minkowski and that orchestra for *hours*. Then the combo of singers… i currently made it to minute 49 and *love* particularly Kozena, Joyce DiDonato (<– she sings a very fast piece but spends big time expressing the music instead of just launching notes…), Stutzmann, and the 3rd male singer (around min 47). THese are the ones that can really bring out the emotion in the music to my brain… in contrast, the first bass' singing is what switches off my brain quite quickly and can make for a very long evening at the opera (or in same case on vivalavoce) if it's that type of singing that dominates…

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    1. I just listened to a bit of it – I will have to save this for later or I will get no work done for a while!

      also: “just launching notes” as something to avoid – I like this phrase 🙂

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    2. I have a recording of Minkowski conducting Platee which is also wonderful. I love the risk element of the performances he conducts – he seems able to get his players and singers performing right at the edge of their capabilities. The odd bum note or wonky run is completely forgivable for the excitement of the performance.

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  2. These recordings are also really good: William Christie and Les Arts Florissants: Castor & Pollux (Sandrine Piau, Veronique Gens et al); John Eliot Gardiner and the English Baroque Soloists: Dardanus orchestral suite; William Christie and Les Arts Florissants: Les Indes Galantes (Sandrine Piau, Isabelle Poulenard et al). Not to mention the wonderful DVD of Les Paladins (again, William Christie and Les Arts Florissants with Topi Lehtipuu, Stephanie d’Oustrac, Sandrine Piau, Laurent Naouri and tha amazing dancers they are partnered with).

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    1. I think I may have seen the Castor and Pollux already – unless there are two versions of this with Veronique Gens. The others I’ll have to see if I can dig up; I’ve seen one version of Les Indes Galantes on DVD that was great in some ways and a little off in others, and it’d be good to have a point of comparison.

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      1. I’m not sure if the recordings I mentioned are available on DVD – except for Les Paladins, I only have the others on CD.

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