Rameau: Anacreon (1754)


Rameau wrote two operas called Anacréon, both one-act actes-de-ballet but with completely different music and plots. The opera presented here is the first of the two, a setting of a libretto by Rameau’s most frequent collaborator, Louis de Cahusac, Following its first performance at the beautiful chateau of Fontainebleau in 1754, Anacréon enjoyed some success in Paris after Rameau’s death before becoming all but lost for over 200 years. From fragmented manuscripts scattered through Paris’s libraries, Jonathan Williams reconstructed the work, had his edition published by Ba?renreiter, and now leads this world-premiere recording with a leading cast of soloists and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.


What people are saying

"4* – An important landmark." The Observer, Autumn 2015

"A valuable addition to the catalogue and Signum Records and especially Jonathan Williams, should be praised and thanked for bringing it to the attention of the listening public." Music Web International, October 2015

"This is a fine disc, and an excellent introduction to the distinctive sounds of the French baroque." North East Music Magazine, September 2015

"Bright-eyed energy and finesse." Financial Times, September 2015

"Sweetly sung." The Times, October 2015

"Very enjoyable and valuable." Early Music Review, November 2015

"There’s elegant, expressive, heart-warming singing from Matthew Brook and Anna Dennis. One of the chief pleasures lies in the band’s virtuosity, including a brace of fantastically flighty flutes." NE:MM, March 2016

Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
The Choir of the Enlightenment
Matthew Brook Anacreon
Anna Dennis Chloe
Agustin Prunell-Friend Batile
Jonathan Williams Conductor

Release date:1st Sep 2015
Order code:SIGCD402
Barcode: 635212040225

For an eighteenth-century opera, Anacréon by the French composer Jean-Philippe Rameau is remarkably straightforward.

Chloé and Batile are two young students of the poet-philosopher Anacréon and are too shy to confess their love for each other, so to encourage them, their mentor arranges for them to recite his love poetry at a grand celebration in his garden. Along the way he can’t resist a bit of playful teasing, and he fools Chloé into believing that he himself is in love with her and that the big event is to be their own wedding, but in the end of course it’s Chloé and Batile who are happily united.

The simplicity of the plot may be due to the fact that Anacréon was originally intended as part of a bigger entertainment, but for modern tastes, it stands perfectly on its own at about fifty minutes long, as a very digestible sample of the glories of the French baroque. Rameau actually wrote two one-act operas with this title; the other one, has been recorded a couple of times, but this disc by Jonathan Williams is the world premiére recording of this 1754 version with a libretto by Louis de Cahusac.

The young girl Chloé gets all of the opera’s best arias, and soprano Anna Dennis gives a lovely clear-voiced and tender performance. Her first aria, ‘Tendre Amour’, with a gorgeously soft and mysterious flute accompaniment played by Lisa Beznousiuk, is achingly sad, and is sung here by Dennis with exquisite control. By the end, when everything has been resolved, she takes flight in ‘L’amour riant’, a delightfully happy and catchy aria, full of laughter, in which love is depicted as Cupid flying around the happy couple. The two male roles get less of the musical action than Chloé, but Matthew Brook as Anacréon and and Agustin Prunell-Friend as Batile support her with strong, elegant singing. Brook is warmly paternal in his opening aria in which he describes his lovely garden and his affection for his two pupils, and the strings add friendly interjections, setting the scene nicely for this gentle comedy.

The fabulously glamorous royal courts of Louis XIV and XV expected lots of dancing in their operas, and so Anacréon duly has a number of dance movements, with the generously large forces of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment nicely capturing the necessary mix of formality and gaiety; it’s supposed to be a bacchanal, but one that takes place strictly within the rigid ceremonial strictures of the French court. The woodwinds and horns particularly shine in these dances, with high virtuousic flute lines flittering around the more solemn oboe and horn parts. Personally I don’t think there is much music that can be improved by adding a tambourine, but formal French baroque dance music wouldn’t be complete without one.

In keeping with convention, the opera closes with a joyous ensemble scene, praising the god Bacchus. The three soloists weave together before the chorus add their voices, and a boisterously cheerful dance rounds things off. This is a fine disc, and an excellent introduction to the distinctive sounds of the French baroque.

North East Music Magazine – Jane Shuttleworth

  1. Anacreon: Ritournelle – Jean-Philippe Rameau – 1.14
  2. Anacreon, Scene 1: Air accompagn?: “Mirthes fleuris, naissant feuillage” – Jean-Philippe Rameau – 2.26
  3. Anacreon, Scene 2: R?citatif: “Vous nous cachez l’objet” – Jean-Philippe Rameau – 4.49
  4. Anacreon, Scene 3: Air accompagn?: “Tendre Amour!” – Jean-Philippe Rameau – 3.03
  5. Anacreon, Scene 4: R?citatif: “Ciel, c’est Batile… H?las!” – Ariette: “Des Z?phyrs, que Flore rappelle” – R?citatif: “Dieux! vous pleurez!” – Jean-Philippe Rameau – 3.42
  6. Anacreon, Scene 4: Air accompagn?: “Mille fleurs parfument les airs” – R?citatif: “Dieux ! ces chants ne sont pas pour moi” – Jean-Philippe Rameau – 2.33
  7. Anacreon, Scene 5: Air accompagn? avec choeur: “R?gnez” – Jean-Philippe Rameau – 0.46
  8. Anacreon, Scene 5: Airs Vifs 1 & 2 pour les jeunes Th?oniens et Th?oniennes – Jean-Philippe Rameau – 2.47
  9. Anacreon, Scene 5: Air accompagn?: “Des caprices du sort” – Jean-Philippe Rameau – 1.37
  10. Anacreon, Scene 5: Air pour les jeunes – Jean-Philippe Rameau – 3.01
  11. Anacreon, Scene 5: R?citatif: “C’est lorsque vous chantez” – Jean-Philippe Rameau – 2.37
  12. Anacreon, Scene 5: Ariette: “Qu’Anacreon dans ce s?jour” – Jean-Philippe Rameau – 1.13
  13. Anacreon, Scene 6: Air pour les Bacchantes – Jean-Philippe Rameau – 2.11
  14. Anacreon, Scene 6: Gavottes 1 & 2 pour les ?gipans et les Bacchantes – Jean-Philippe Rameau – 2.25
  15. Anacreon, Scene 6: Ariette: “Quand l’Amour enflamme nos coeurs” – Jean-Philippe Rameau – 2.23
  16. Anacreon, Scene 6: Pantomime pour Sil?ne et deux Bacchantes – Jean-Philippe Rameau – 1.46
  17. Anacreon, Scene 6: Airs 1 & 2 pour Sil?ne et deux Bacchantes – Jean-Philippe Rameau – 1.30
  18. Anacreon, Scene 6: Ariette: “L’Amour, riant et sans bandeau” – Jean-Philippe Rameau – 3.28
  19. Anacreon, Scene 6: Tambourins 1 & 2 – Jean-Philippe Rameau – 2.00
  20. Anacreon, Scene 6: Trio: “Chantons Bacchus” – Jean-Philippe Rameau – 1,00
  21. Anacreon, Scene 6: Choeur: “Chantons Bacchus” – Jean-Philippe Rameau – 1.34
  22. Anacreon, Scene 6: Contredanse – Jean-Philippe Rameau – 2.11
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