OP0098. LES FÊTES D’HÉBÉ (Rameau), Recorded 1997, Paris, w. William Christie Cond. Les Arts Florissants; Sophie Daneman, Sarah Connolly, Jean-Paul Fouchécourt, Paul Agnew, Luc Coadou, Thierry Félix, etc. 2-Erato 21064, w.Elaborate 105 pp. Libretto-Brochure in Italian, French, English & German. Very long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 63984210642
"This particular recording won the Gramophone 1998 Best Early Opera award, doing no harm at all to the reputation of William Christie and Les Arts Florissants.
The work is an example of a highly popular 18th century French genre, the Opéra-ballet. As you would expect from a classic early-music performance of this kind we have crisp harpsichord textures, tight string ensemble and recorders providing upper wind contrast, bassoons for added depth and rousing horns for extra drama, and percussion for some of the more energetic dances. Of course the singers are a vital element, and this is a very strong cast indeed. Pure-sounding but full-blooded singing from the sopranos in the early stages sets the tone, and the men are all very good as well. It hardly seems fair to pick out favourites, and the articulation is so good you could almost imagine being able to understand and follow the texts just by listening. William Christie’s team included long-term working relationships with excellent singers such as Jean-Paul Fouchécourt, and the synergy between all involved is palpable.
Rameau’s score is packed full of gorgeous music, and if you want to sample some go to the top of CD 2, where the Oracle goes through dances both mournful and fun-filled to predict Iphise’s happy future. There is a stunning sopranino recorder in the Gavottes, some bagpipes in the Musette numbers further on in Scène 6, and some delicious wind ensemble work to go with it. The final miniature Contradanse is certainly worth waiting for, but in reality every number is its own highlight. The musical equivalent of a sophisticated variety act, with large numbers of relatively short, contrasting pieces, one can understand why this kind of work would have been all the rage in 1739. Superbly recorded, the whole thing is a French baroque delight from start to finish.”
- Dominy Clements, MusicWebInternational