Rameau: Castor & Pollux

Colin Ainsworth Castor, Florian Sempey Pollux, Emmanuelle de Negri Télaire, Clémentine Margaine Phébé, Christian Immler Jupiter, Sabine Deveilhe Cléone, Philippe Talbot un athlète, Virgile Ancely le grand prêtre, Ensemble Pygmalion, Raphaël Pichon
139:31
harmonia mundi HMC 902212.13

As with Mozart, so with Rameau. When you’ve heard several operas (or even the same one several times) it’s easy to forget how brilliant they are. However, this recording offers a stimulus for renewed admiration by using the 1754 re-working of the 1737 original, apparently with the benefit of ‘recently discovered’ manuscript material. I must say that I do prefer this – shorn of the prologue, much recitative and with arguably a clearer and tauter storyline. And the music is sublime – noble, jaunty or outright jolly as required and sometimes spectacular: try the Athlete’s air (CD1 track 25). The booklet (Fr/Eng/Ger) offers an essay that explains the context of the 1754 version, a synopsis and full text/translation cued to the track list and the performance does not disappoint with both singers and players finding inspiration in Rameau’s genius. Yes, there’s occasionally an excess of vibrato or percussion but a non-reviewer might not even notice, such is the general sweep of the action, and the general standard, especially for a live recording, is remarkably good. I just wish it were a DVD of a staged performance. For that you need the Christophe Rousset account but be warned – the production will definitely not be to all tastes.

David Hansell