The story of rival factions, divine interventions, and love triumphing over obstacles political and personal clearly inspired some of Rameau's most adventurous musical evocations (just one example might be the fascinating harmonic language he uses to depict a magician commanding an eclipse). It's this spirit of daring experiment that Rameau expert Marc Minkowski relishes throughout this magnificent, high-octane, deftly tailored account. He fires the authentic-instrument group Les Musiciens du Louvre into his customary whiplash speeds, which are just perfect for the air of martial excitement that prevails, while the many dance-centered numbers have a muscular grace. The result in general is some of his best work to date on disc, with a special emphasis on the through line of the score. The cast is spectacular–young in demeanor, passionate, and superbly fluent in the idiom. Consider the vocal acting of Véronique Gens as the conflicted heroine Iphise (in love with her father's enemy), with its rich emotional involvement; there's an exciting chemistry between her and the title hero John Mark Ainsley, who gently tapers his vibrato into a beautifully nuanced tenor–now forlorn and outcast, now assertively heroic. Less satisfying is Laurent Naouri's inconsistently projected lower range as the antihero Anténor. The chorus has been beautifully prepared. For this recording, Minkowski uses Rameau's original 1739 version, with some interpolations of especially compelling material from the slimmed-down 1744 revision. (Thomas May)
The peerless Takacs Quartet recently nominated for a Gramophone award for their second disc of Brahms's string quartets, continue their exploration of the Romantic chamber music tradition with this disc of Schumann. The Piano Quintet is by far Schumann's most popular chamber work and one of the most beloved works in the genre. Schumann was the first romantic composer to pair the piano with the string quartet. Schumann studied the string quartets of Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn and his quartet Op. 41 No. 3 demonstrates these influences. However, it contains many highly original strokes, particularly the casting of the scherzo as a set of variations. The Takacs Quartet are joined by Marc-Andre Hamelin in an invigorating partnership that has already been widely acclaimed on the concert platform.