Friday, November 19, 2010

Rameau - Anacreon - William Christie, Les Arts Florissants







Anacreon was an ancient Greek poet, noted for his relish of the pleasures of life, amorous and bibulous as well as literary and musical. He lived to a great age and retained his appetites and his capacities. The eighteenth century, a period that naturally sympathized with such a figure, took him up: London had its Anacreontic Society, poets wrote and composers set Anacreontic Odes, and the French wrote divertissements about him, Rameau composed two such: one in 1754, the other three years later, and it is the latter of these, originally designedJean-Philippe Rameau, by Jacques André Joseph Aved, 1728. as an acte de ballet to replace another in a revival of his Les surprises de l'Amour, that is recorded here.
Rameau's second Anacréon, to a libretto by P.-J. Bernard, deals with the poet's dual loyalties to Bacchus and Cupid, their conflict and their resolution, with his desertion of his beloved, Lycoris, symbolizing his brief allegiance to Bacchus alone. A rather feeble plot, to be sure, but it scarcely matters: what Rameau wanted was a few good pegs on which to hang music of varied emotional content, and that is duly provided. The music, though nowhere near Rameau at his greatest, is characteristic and charming; among its high points are the expressive récit for Anacréon when the followers of Bacchus put Cupid to flight and sunder him from Lycoris, the dialogue for Anacréon and Cupid in Scene 3, the air in Scene 4 for Anacréon with choral interpolations, and the triumphal air for Cupid at the end, when he (or she) invites Bacchus to power-sharing. And there are some typically original and colorful ballet sequences, of which the concluding one is perhaps the most striking. The performance here is as stylish as we know to expect from William Christie's group, Les Arts Florissants. René Schirrer, who sings the title role, is capable but not quite so smooth or graceful as one might hope; it sounds a shade more effortful than it ought ideally be. But then, Anacréon is meant to be fairly elderly when the action takes place. Cupid, on the other hand, is greeted on his first appearance "C'est la voix d'un enfant", and indeed the voice is somewhat childlike: I should have preferred the simplicity of a Judith Nelson or an Emma Kirkby (deceptive simplicity though it may be) to this rather more self-conscious singing. Still, these are minor objections, counsels of perfection, and should not give pause to any Ramellian who wants to acquire this rarity. S.S. 


ape, scans

1 comment:

  1. Welcome back Otto. I have this one. Love it. Great pick. :-)


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