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Love Songs F/T Operas

Jean-Philippe Rameau Audio CD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Airs d'opéras sur le thème de l'amour (tirés de : Dardanus, Platée, Les Indes Galantes, Pygmalion, Zoroastre, Les Paladins, Hippolyte et Aricie / Carolyn Sampson, soprano - Ex Cathedra, dir. Jeffrey Skidmore

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5.0 out of 5 stars Sparkling Rarities July 6 2004
Format:Audio CD
The concept of a collection of French baroque arias used to be completely unheard of. Although different in structure from the Italian type (usually shorter, with no da capos) they are just as charming, but rarely heard. Then in 2002, Virgin Classics released a magnificent recital by Patricia Petibon (simply called "French Baroque Arias") and broke this long silence. Now Hyperion has given us this wonderful gift of a recital, capturing in some seventy minutes' time the best tunes of the master of French baroque opera, Jean-Philippe Rameau.
Admittedly, the collection is somewhat one-side:none of Rameau's dramatic monologues are included; the recital consists mostly of the dance tunes and arriettes that are found in the selected operas' divertissements, and, thusly, not part of the main, dramatic action. But it is in these arias where Rameau shows his true genius for infectious melody, and, collected together, they make for much pleasurable listening.
Most of the first part of the programme is extracted from "Les Indes Galantes", which is a masterpiece of the sub-genre known as "Opera Ballet". The majority of the selections are derived from the divertissement from the first "entree" - "The Benevolant Turk" (an "opera ballet" generally consisted of 3-4 "entrees", each a self-contained one act opera; each "entree" had its own title, characters, and plot, but all the entrees were connected as far as theme).
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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sparkling Rarities July 6 2004
By Charles Richards - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
The concept of a collection of French baroque arias used to be completely unheard of. Although different in structure from the Italian type (usually shorter, with no da capos) they are just as charming, but rarely heard. Then in 2002, Virgin Classics released a magnificent recital by Patricia Petibon (simply called "French Baroque Arias") and broke this long silence. Now Hyperion has given us this wonderful gift of a recital, capturing in some seventy minutes' time the best tunes of the master of French baroque opera, Jean-Philippe Rameau.
Admittedly, the collection is somewhat one-side:none of Rameau's dramatic monologues are included; the recital consists mostly of the dance tunes and arriettes that are found in the selected operas' divertissements, and, thusly, not part of the main, dramatic action. But it is in these arias where Rameau shows his true genius for infectious melody, and, collected together, they make for much pleasurable listening.
Most of the first part of the programme is extracted from "Les Indes Galantes", which is a masterpiece of the sub-genre known as "Opera Ballet". The majority of the selections are derived from the divertissement from the first "entree" - "The Benevolant Turk" (an "opera ballet" generally consisted of 3-4 "entrees", each a self-contained one act opera; each "entree" had its own title, characters, and plot, but all the entrees were connected as far as theme). Along with the standard dance-tunes like the buoyant "Partez", are less stereotyped numbers such as the scene in which Emilie first encounters the stranded ship coming to shore (upon which is her long-lost lover), and the odd "air Italianne" - "Fra le Pupille", Rameau's only known Italian setting.
The recital also contains extracts from other famous Rameau operas, such as "Hyppolite et Aricie", "Dardanus" and "Zoroastre", and one startlingly beautiful number from the undervalued "Les Paladins", an opera which deserves to be represented in the catalog (Marc Minkowsky, are you listening?).
Carolyn Sampson is all shimmering delight, especially in the lighter extracts. Her voice is perfectly suited to the repertoire, and while, perhaps, not as idiomatically French as Petibon's, it is a bit more rich and sonorous. However, she does lack Petibon's sense of playfulness with the repertoire: while Folie's arias from "Platee" are beautifully sung, Sampson fails to make anything of the humour found within them, as Petibon clearly does in her recital. But, that said, it is enough that the sound is ravishing.
Jeffrey Skidmore and "Ex Cathedra" back her up well. The trilling of the flutes in Hebe's aria from "Les Indes Galantes" couldn't sound more bird-like!
All-in-all I was enchanted by this collection, and could not recommend it highly enough.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful addition to any baroque music-lover's collection March 2 2007
By Ingrid Heyn - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
The lovely voice of Carolyn Sampson is well suited to the truly gorgeous music of Rameau, of which a nice selection is included on this CD. The music itself poses no difficulty for Ms Sampson, and she negotiates the elegant lines and tuplet-endowed sections, along with the intrinsic embellishments of the arias, with ease.

There are many beautiful things in the CD, and for the sheer loveliness of the voice, what a pleasure it is to hear.

As the previous reviewer mentioned, there is a bit of cross-over between this and the delicious "Airs baroque français" by Patricia Petibon - and that is an album I strongly recommend in addition to this. I do personally prefer Petibon's recording, although this CD by Ms Sampson is also charming.

There are a number of reasons for that. Firstly, Petibon is French, and she sings (of course) in perfect French. Ms Sampson's French does not sound entirely French (however, most listeners won't be worried by this). Secondly, Patricia Petibon's understanding of the language also enables her to paint the words and music to convey meaning to an extent that is not equalled by Carolyn Sampson. Again, this won't matter a great deal to most listeners who will primarily be ravished by the lovely sounds of Carolyn Sampson's singing. Thirdly, it's true that there are quite a few purely instrumental pieces on this recording. Not that I particularly object... I love both Rameau's vocal music and his instrumental music, but in general when one purchases a vocal recital album, that's what one wants - a vocal recital.

The differences between the two singers' approach is exemplified mostly in the arias which are sung by each - that is, Rameau's "Soleil, fois de ces lieux !" and "Formons les plus brillants concerts... Aux langeurs d'Apollon". There is more "coeur" in Petibon's singing, but Ms Sampson offers her own attractions in her singing, of course. It's the lovely clarity of her voice that will appeal - it's a light and well-focused soprano timbre with considerable agility and a beautiful evenness throughout the range.

I enjoyed this album very much, and Carolyn Sampson's fresh and shining voice is extremely attractive to listen to. I have listened with pleasure to almost everything this very gifted singer has recorded, and she is certainly a singer whose recordings are worth collecting.

Recommended.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent introduction to Rameau Jan. 8 2006
By E. Weed - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I just want to add a few comments on this disc, which has already been very well reviewed: I've enjoyed some of Rameau's keyboard music, but can't say I've been thoroughly captured by his operas. This disc proved to be an excellent exploration of Rameau's vocal music, and I highly recommend it. Carolyn Sampson has a light, fresh voice with great appeal. The selections include pieces from several of the lesser-known operas that are real gems, along with more well-known items (within the Rameau orbit, which is arguably underappreciated). The accompaniment, by Jeffrey Skidmore and Ex Cathedra, is superb--delicate when required, or bustling along, but never intrusive, and lacking that "Original Instruments" edginess that some of us find irritating at times. The sound is typical Hyperion--first rate, if slightly recessed.

If you have any interest in this repertoire, but haven't found the right place to dive in, this ought to do the job.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Introduction to Rameau's Operas April 24 2006
By Robin Friedman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I had the pleasure of hearing high tenor Jean-Pierre Fouchard and the Opera LaFayette perform a recital of Rameau's operatic music during a snowy February afternoon concert at the University of Maryland. I wanted to hear more Rameau opera and found this excellent CD with a program similar to the one I heard live, but for a soprano voice. This CD on Hyperion, "Love Songs from the Operas" features soprano Carolyn Sampson and Jeffry Skidmore conducting the choir and orchestra of Ex Cathedra, an English early music ensemble, similar to the Opera LaFayette of my own home town, that performs in period style on period instruments. The CD is a wonderful way to get to know Rameau.

Jean-Phillipe Rameau (1687 -- 1764) began composing operas at the age of 50. (Together with his near-contemporary, Domenico Scarlatti, Rameau shows there is hope yet for us late-bloomers)

With their emotional passion, harmonic daring, and unmistakable rhythms, Rameau initiated a new age in French opera. A figure of the Enlightenment in music, Rameau went far towards initiating the classical style of Gluck and Mozart. French opera during Rameau's time was largely a mixture of dramatic stage material and musical interludes known as divertissiments. Thus, his musical accomplishment can legitimately be approached by a selection from his various operas, as offered on this CD and in the live performance I mentioned above.

Sampson and Skidmore offer selections from seven Rameau operas, including his first opera Hipolyte et Acis of 1733, and including as well Les Indes galantes, Les Paladin, Plate, Zoroastre, Dardanus, and Pygmalion. Many of the works include collections of musical interludes from the divertissiments, while others are solo selections. There is a great variety of music on the recording, including a surprising amount of comedy material and, in Platee, Rameau's satire of the florid, melismatic style of Italian opera. Much of appeal of Rameau's music results from the interplay between simple melodic lyricism and the variety of his orchestration, particularly for winds. Flute, oboe, bassoon, and percussion are all well in evidence here. I particularly enjoyed some of the slower more serious ariettes, including "Soleil fuis du ces lieux" from Plate and "Regne Amour" from Zoroastre. Several of the selections show the origins of French baroque music in the dance and feature lively orchestral introductions followed by solos. There are two fine examples in the opening divertissiment from Les Indes Gallantes. Strongly structured and rhythmic orchestral interludes are offered in "Tambourin" from Dardanus and in the minuet and rondo from "Les Indes Gallantes." And the choir is featured in selections from Plate. But Ms Sampson's clear, passionate, and idiomatic soprano remains the chief attraction of this CD.

In his study, "French Baroque Music", James Anthony observed (p. 129) that "In terms of musical statement, there is no question but that [Rameau] is the greatest composer of the French eighteenth century; there is also no question that, among all the first line composers of that century of giants, he is the one least appreciated today." For those who lack the good fortune I had in hearing a live recital of Rameau, this CD provides an introduction to the beauty and power of his operatic music.

I am pleased that this CD has already attracted the attention of two excellent and thoughtful reviewers.

Robin Friedman
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good, but I would have cut back on the instrumental movements Sept. 17 2006
By Steven Guy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I like this CD a lot and I have listened to it many times since I bought it. Carolyn Sampson has a fine soprano voice and a great vocal technique. I have enjoyed her singing for some time and her contributions to the King's Consort recordings of cantatas by Kuhnau, Zelenka, Knüpfer and Schelle were highlights for me.

I have few complaints about this disc, but I would have liked a few more vocal works and slightly less instrumental movements from the operas. However, as a "walk through" Jean-Philippe Rameau's operas, this CD is first class. There are so many Handelians around these days, endlessly singing the praises of the "Beloved Saxon", it is easy to forget that Rameau was easily as great as Handel in most areas and he certainly was a much more imaginative and skilled composer of orchestral music than his British-based peer. Whenever Handel had more instruments at his disposal, what did he do? He had the extra instruments play in unison with existing musical lines.

I digress.

I also have Patricia Petibon's incredible "Virtuoso French Baroque Opera Arias" CD, which is, in my opinion, utterly beyond any serious criticism. I was eager to compare Ms Sampson's interpretations with Mademoiselle Petibon's slightly older recording. Carolyn Sampson does well, however, in "Aux langueurs d'Apollon", it is clear to me that she just can't touch Patricia Petibon in realm of imagination, characterisation, wit and style. Sampson's La Folie seems to be polite and charming - as opposed to Petibon's La Folie, who really is quite mad.

Sampson does use more vibrato than Petibon, who uses virtually none. Listeners who aren't attracted to HIP interpretations of Baroque music will probably thus favour Sampson's interpretations over Petibon's.

Carolyn Sampson's interpretations of the slower and less extrovert arias are very good indeed. Her "Soleil, fuis de ces lieux" is very attractive and not inferior to Petibon's in any way. I just wish someone had brought the great aria "Triste apprêts, pâles flambeaux" from Castor et Pollux to her attention. Ms Sampson would have done something very nice with that great Baroque aria.

I love this CD and it makes for some great listening. Needless to say, the experience of Patricia Petibon in French Baroque opera gives her a considerable edge, but Sampson's is a highly worthy recording.
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