Castor et Pollux is arguably Rameau's finest creation in the tragdie lyrique style. Its libretto, based in mythology, focuses on an unusual theme: the self-sacrificing love between Castor, who is mortal, and his immortal brother, Pollux. When Castor is killed while defending his beloved Tlare from an attempted abduction, Pollux resolves to give up this immortality and take Castor's place in the Underworld. After passionate debate over who will live and who will die, the brothers are eternally united, transformed into the constellation Gemini. The striking luminous sets, depicting a stylized version of the constellation, give this fabulous production a glorious 21st century baroque look.
Among the finest performers of early music and arbiters of period practices, Christophe Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques turn their attention here to the composer whose work inspired the ensemble's name and purpose. In this 2000 disc devoted to the music of Jean-Philippe Rameau, Rousset and his ensemble turn in vigorous and appealing performances that present Rameau's music in a new light. The chaste and sometimes severe Pièces de clavecin en concerts are dramatically transformed in these sumptuous versions for string orchestra and continuo.
Créé en 1995 par Jean-Christophe Frisch, premièrement sous le nom de XVIII-21 Musique des Lumières, XVIII-21 Le Baroque Nomade est un ensemble français ayant participé à un renouvellement de l’interprétation de la musique baroque, en s’appuyant sur les découvertes musicologiques les plus récentes. L’ensemble a notamment développé le concept de baroque nomade, travaillant sur les rencontres historiquement avérées entre musiques baroques européennes et musiques extra-européennes.
In November 1772, as the 16-year-old Mozart was preparing to astonish the Milanese with his third operatic work for the Teatro Regio Ducal, his older contemporary, Tommaso Traetta (1727–79) from the Puglia region of Italy, was presenting the premiere of his second opera for the court of Catherine the Great in St Petersburg. Today, the former’s Lucio Silla is probably better known than the latter’s Antigona. But which is the finer work? On the basis of this outstanding new recorded version, I would say that Traetta’s tragedia per musica in three acts far outclasses Mozart’s opera seria for its consistent musical inspiration and sheer theatrical know-how. If Traetta’s music were at all familiar to opera-lovers today, that would not be so surprising because this contemporary and disciple of Gluck was, by 1772, an experienced composer for the theatre, already in the prime of a life that was to end, prematurely, only seven years later. His career had taken him from the conservatory in Naples to that city’s famous San Carlo, where his first commission in 1751 was Il Farnace. From there he travelled throughout Europe.
Christophe Wallemme describes this effort as a "wink at the great standards of American jazz," a laudable objective but an affirmation that seems intended to confuse the listener. The explicit musical references on Start "So Many Ways…" point instead to Antonio Carlos Jobim and Miles Davis' Bitches Brew rather than "Body and Soul" or "My Funny Valentine." No matter.
The achievement of Namaste—and it is a genuine achievement—is also the achievement of Miles Davis's In a Silent Way (Columbia, 1969): namely, providing room to breathe in a crowded room of musicians—soloists all, not a big band. (On Miles's subsequent Bitches Brew (Columbia, 1969), in contrast, a crowded room of musicians was happy to sound like a hot and tumultuous marketplace.) Despite the carefully-crafted compositions and arrangements, it's that sumptuous but spacious sound fabric that is most remarkable about this record.