Rameau: Pygmalion; Les Fȇtes de Polymnie Suite d’orchestra

Reviewed on Thu 07 Dec, 2017

At times enchanting, at others exhilarating, it’s a performance marked as much by poetry and poise as it is by nimble dexterity and palpable emotion.

A reminder of why Rameau’s Pygmalion should have been so popular in the composer’s lifetime (and why it has remained in the repertoire) comes in this vivid and vital account that relishes its crisp, baroque brilliance by Christophe Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques. At times enchanting, at others exhilarating, it’s a performance marked as much by poetry and poise as it is by nimble dexterity and palpable emotion. There is considerable competition from the likes of Gustav Leonhardt and Hervé Niquet, but Rousset stands favourably alongside the hitherto clear first choice of William Christie’s 1992 Harmonia Mundi recording. Cyrille Dubois’ Pygmalion is ardently sung, the Céphise of Marie-Claude Chappuis no less exactly refined. Sterling support, too, from Céline Scheen’s arresting Statue and Eugénie Warnier’s delightfully fresh-sounding L’Amour. The sparkling orchestral playing throughout comes into its own in the suite taken from Les Fȇtes de Polymnie that moves from stately solemnity to bristling bombast with liquid ease.
–Michael Quinn