Rameau: Une Symphonie Imaginaire (CD review)

Marc Minkowski, Les Musiciens du Louvre. Archiv 00289 4745142.

Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764) was one of France’s great early composers of operatic and choral music, but he never actually wrote anything specifically for the orchestra alone. Maestro Marc Minkowski has attempted to make up for this oversight on the part of the composer by putting together an “Imaginary Symphony” (Une Symphonie Imaginaire), a purely instrumental montage or pastiche made up of bits and pieces of Rameau’s orchestral music interludes, overtures, and ballets. Although the result doesn’t quite gel, it’s a fascinating overview of the composer’s style.

The “Symphony” borrows from things like Castor et Pollux, Les Fetes d’Hebe, Dardanus, Le Temple de la Gloire, Les Boreades, La Naissance d’Osiris, Hippolyte & Arcie, Nais, and others. And it begins with an overture from Zais that features a wonderful percussion element that will have your subwoofer woofing on end. I wish I could say the whole enterprise pleased me more, but I found it slightly and understandably disjointed, like a best-of hodgepodge of Baroque favorites. At the same time, it’s hard to deny the genius of Rameau, and the music makes enjoyable easy listening.

Further supporting the pleasure of the music is the enlivening presentation by Marc Minkowski and his Les Musiciens du Louvre. The conductor clearly enjoys this music and offers it up in often brilliant, sometimes refined, occasionally beautiful fashion.

While I don’t usually care for live recordings, Archiv did this one several years ago with a relatively small group of period musicians miked fairly close up, giving a better sense of intimacy as well as definition to the proceedings. What’s more, I didn’t notice the audience once. Insofar as concerns the actual sound, it’s fine, if a trifle soft around the edges and somewhat limited in dimensionality.


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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa