September 12, 2014

Erato celebrates the 250th anniversary of Rameau’s death

A lavish 27-CD opera box pays tribute to the undisputed master of the French Baroque.

Any tourist who has visited the palace at Versailles to marvel at the fountain show will have been captivated by the music of Rameau – perhaps without even knowing it – as the jets of water dance to the French composer’s majestic yet irresistibly joyous ballet music and arias.

The Dijon-born organist and theorist is a classic late-bloomer, penning his first opera, Hippolyte et Aricie, at the age of 50 in 1733. Yet he had a gift for the theatrical, and went on to write some of the most vibrant, astonishing music of the 18th century.

From its very first release in 1953, Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s Te Deum, the French label Erato was at the forefront of the French Baroque revival. William Christie’s recordings of Rameau operas and motets with his ensemble Les Arts Florissants remain the benchmark for their style, energy and finesse – and as his recent performances at the BBC Proms and Glyndebourne attest, his interpretations are as fresh as ever.

Erato’s new 27-CD boxed set The Rameau Opera Collection, released today to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Rameau's death on September 12, features Christie’s timeless recordings alongside all the greatest champions of Rameau: John Eliot Gardiner, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Marc Minkowski and Nicholas McGegan among them. This collection of nine operas and four stage works contains some of the jewels of the Erato catalogue released between 1974 and 2002, which made such an important contribution to re-establishing Rameau’s reputation as a master of musical theatre. From the heartwrenching fraternal bond of Castor et Pollux to the hilarious primping and clownery of the ugly-and-oblivious water nymph Plâtée, these are works of great beauty and subtlety, and, when stylishly performed  as they are here, they possess considerable dramatic power.

The Rameau Opera Collection is available now.