At the height of the famous Querelle des Bouffons (1754), the elderly Rameau yielded to insistent requests from the Académie Royale de Musique for a major revision of Castor and Pollux, 17 years after the lukewarm reception of its premiere. He deleted the Prologue and made substantial modifications to the dramatic structure, with a completely new first act! But the original has continued to overshadow the revision, unjustly so when one considers the modernity of its orchestration. The inspired direction of Raphaël Pichon shows the extent to which this music heralds the Classical orchestra.
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.
Pinchgut Opera presented one of the glories of the French baroque for the first time in Australia. Castor & Pollux is Rameau's finest creation. It's a story based in mythology about the self-sacrificing love between two brothers. The music goes straight to the heart. With some of the most beautiful vocal and orchestral writing of the period, the opera was an instant hit when it was first presented.
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.
In contrast to its reception in 1737, 'Castor et Pollux' enjoyed great success in 1754 and it was given regularly until 1755. It was revived again at court in November 1763, then at the Académie Royale de Musique from January 1764 (six months before the elderly Rameau’s death) until 1765, and continued to receive frequent performances from 1770 to 1782: eloquent testimony to its popularity. Thanks to the recent discovery of a manuscript close to the autograph that Rameau finalised in the last months of 1753, this second version of the work, with its tauter dramatic action, can now be heard in the pristine splendour and refinement of its orchestration. As a result the revised tragédie lyrique, unfairly overshadowed nowadays by the 1737 version, emerges in its full force and dramatic power under the inspired direction of Raphaël Pichon.
The eighteenth century is probably the most extraordinary period of transformation Europe has known since antiquity. Political upheavals kept pace with the innumerable inventions and discoveries of the age; every sector of the arts and of intellectual and material life was turned upside down. Between the end of the reign of Louis XIV and the revolution of 1789, music in its turn underwent a radical mutation that struck at the very heart of a well-established musical language. In this domain too, we are all children of the Age of Enlightenment: our conception of music and the way we ‘consume’ it still follows in many respects the agenda set by the eighteenth century. And it is not entirely by chance that harmonia mundi has chosen to offer you in 2011 a survey of this musical revolution which, without claiming to be exhaustive, will enable you to grasp the principal outlines of musical creation between the twilight of the Baroque and the dawn of Romanticism.
For approaching a century and a half in France – across the reigns of Louis XIV, XV and XVI – the Palace of Versailles played host, both indoors and outdoors, for an extraordinary sequence of dramatic musical performances. Un Opéra pour trois rois, conducted by György Vashegyi, represents the legacy of that time, a specially constructed operatic entertainment drawn from works by composers from Lully to Gluck, commissioned – and even, on occasion, performed – by kings, their queens and inamoratas.
Raphaël Pichon has invited Stéphane Degout to make his recording debut for harmonia mundi in a multifaceted exploration of the Underworld. The French baritone reincarnates the figure of Henri Larrivée, the famous tragedian of Rameau and Gluck. Around a reconstruction of an imaginary Mass of the Dead, sacred and secular merge, revealing some of the most extraordinary pieces from the operatic repertory of the Enlightenment. Music of death and mourning on an epic scale that inspires Pygmalion to overwhelming heights of pathos.