1 CD - 432 968-2 - (p) 1992


Jean-Philippe RAMEAU (1683-1764) Les Paladins - Suite
39' 09"

- Ouverturetrès vite
3' 37"

- Menuet lent 1' 41"

- Air gay
1' 56"

- Entrée des Pèlerins
4' 01"

- Loure
3' 10"

- Pantomime 2' 28"

- Air de furie 2' 08"

- Sarabande
3' 11"

- Menuet en rondeau I-II 5' 40"

- Entrée très gaye des Troubadours
2' 40"

- Air très gay 1' 47"

- Gavotte
0' 31"

- Menuet
0' 56"


- Contredanse (en rondeau)
1' 12"

- Entrée des Chinois
2' 32"

- Loure 3' 31"

- Gigue vive
3' 24"

- Air vif 1' 42"

- Première gavotte gaye - deuxième gavotte
2' 39"

- Air très gay 4' 22"

- Entrée des Paladines et ensuite Paladins
3' 11"

- Air pour les Pagodes 3' 06"

- Gavotte I-II
2' 12"

- Contredanse en rondeau 1' 51"

- Elizabeth Wallfisch, Alison Bury, Peter Lissauer, Catherine Ford, Susan Carpenter-Jacobs, Violins 1
- Catherine Mackintosh, Catherine Weiss, Marshall Marcus, Desmond Heath, Violins 2
- Jan Schlapp, Annette Isserlis, Marti Kelly, Violas
- Susan Sheppard, Timothy Mason, Violoncelli
- Amanda Macnamara, Double-bass
- Lisa Beznosiuk, Stephen Preston, Flutes
- Anthony Robson, Richard Earle, Oboes
- Andrew Watts, Felix Warnock, Bassoons
- Susan Dent, Colin Horton, Horns
- Paul Nicholson, Harpsichord

, Direction


Luogo e data di registrazione
St. Giles, Cripplegate, London (England) - Gennaio 1991

Registrazione: live / studio

Artist and reppertoire production

Wouter Hoekstra

Recording producer

Martha de Francisco

Balance engineer
Martha de Francisco

Balance, recording engineer

Andreas Neubronner

Tape editors

Kees de Visser | Martha de Francisco

Art direction

George Cramer

Prima Edizione LP

Edizione CD
Philips | LC 0305 | 432 968-2 | 1 CD - durata 63' 45" | (p) 1992 | DDD

Cover Art

"Scène de ballet ou représentation théâtrale". Miniature on the lif of a snuffbox (18th century) by M.J. van Blarenberghe. Visual Arts Library / Musée du Louvre, Paris (1992).


Jean Philippe Rameau’s comédie lyrique “Les Paladins” was given its premiere at the Académie royale de musique (the predecessor of the Paris Opéra) in February and March of 1760. It was Rameau’s first music drama of more than one act since “Acanthe et Céphise” in 1751; hence it was anticipated with great interest. By all accounts, the opera was given the lavish production to be expected for a work by the acknowledged greatest living French composer. The success of the new opera, however, did not live up to anticipation: only five of the first seven performances produced receipts exceeding those of a new production of Lully’s “Amadis de Gaule” mounted around the same time, and the production closed after just 15 performances, never to be heard again until a 1967 revival in Lyons. That modern revival elicited the appreciative description from one reviewer of a “score in which the aged Rameau gave us quite simply his ‘Falstaff’.”
Contemporary reviews of the première production of “Les Paladins” focused their criticism on the perceived deficiencies of the anonymous libretto. Undoubtedly, some of the negative response to the work resulted from its being one of only a very small number of comic works to have appeared at the Opéra; as such it adhered to different dramatic conventions than the more traditional genres, the tragédie lyrique, the opéra-ballet, and the pastorale-héroïque. In truth, comparison of the work’s libretto with stage comédies of Molière and Marivaux permits the conclusion that Rameau’s librettist was indeed not in the league of either of these principal representatives of French comic traditions.
Composition of “Les Paladins” apparently occupied Rameau for longer than was usual for him. An anonymous letter dated 7 August 1756, to a correspondent at the Palatine court in Mannheim, informs us that Rameau “has written the music for an opera bouffon.
Recent examination of Rameau’s composing score for “Les Paladins” has allowed us to infer that the original composition of the opera was likely contemporaneous with his revision during 1757 of the opéra-ballet “Les surprises de l’amour.” In addition, there are many significant changes in instrumentation between this composing score and the one used for the production of 1760 - changes which seem primarily to have been motivated by the appearance in 1759 in the Opéra orchestra of proficient horn players. The most significant difference in the two scores is in the ouvertures; that in the production score is scored with two horn parts, and is in a key more appropriate to the horn than is the ouverture of the composing score. In all, eight numbers in addition to the ouverture have horn parts added in Rameau’s hand in the production score.
During the 1750’s, much of Paris society was taken up with the so-called guerre des bouffons, a pamphlet war in which the relative merits of Italian and French opera were debated by contemporary literati. A spate of new theoretical writings by Rameau indicates that he too was at least somewhat preoccupied with the issues raised by the aesthetic dispute. Indeed, Rameau is quoted by Grétry as having said that were he 35 years younger he would go to Italy, where Pergolesi would be his model, but that at the age of “over 60 one must stay where one is.” In some of the one-act ballets written during this period for Fontainebleau, as well as in some of his revisions of earlier works, Rameau can be observed to experiment occasionally with the more galant Italian style of Pergolesi. In “Les Paladins,” however, the experimentation is more overt: in one air, for example, he instructs the player of the obbligato oboe to play “un peu gai à la française [i.e., with notes inégales?].” This number is immediately followed by a duo which a contemporary copyist understood to be so representative of the Italian style that he entitled it in a manuscript of around 1770 “Duo amoroso
! Other elements of the vocal music, especially in lyric dialogue scenes, suggest an attempt to incorporate the new style of the opera buffa into a French setting, and the appearance of full-blown da capo arias within the stream of the dramatic action - even if they are still given the French designation ariette - is also a reflection of Pergolesi’s practice.
If Rameau’s contemporaries were uneasy with the non-traditional aspects of “Les Paladins,” they nonetheless often expressed appreciation of the opera’s instrumental music. Writing in “Mercure,” the leading Parisian periodical of arts and letters, one contemporary reviewer wrote:
As to the music, it everywhere bears the stamp of its illustrious composer. As is generally the case with his music, it has been better expressed with each performance. Justice is done to the beauty, the very novelty, of the symphonies [i.e., the instrumental movements]. The overture has been loudly applauded.
Respect for Rameau’s instrumental writing is evident in the fact that at least one dance movement, the “Entrée très gaye de Troubadours” of Act II, scene 10, appears in a manuscript pastiche dating from some 15-20 years after Rameau’s death.
Despite its experimental tendencies, “Les Paladins” caters to the French taste of the ancien régime with a divertissement of chorus and dance music in each act. Whereas in some of Rameau’s earlier tragédies a case could be made that the divertissements are non-essential to the drama - indeed they often inhibit its forward progress - in “Les Paladins,” the divertissements are at the least strongly motivated by the dramatic action, and one, the sequence of danses d’action and danced choruses of Act I, scene 6, is crucial in establishing the less than heroic qualities of one of the opera’s two principal comic figures.
The third-act divertissement is somewhat more decorative, celebrating the future happiness of the two young lovers whom the audience has seen overcome obstacles posed by the young lady’s fatuous elderly guardian, a Venetian senator named Anselme. Rameau and his librettist take full advantage of the opportunity presented by their model - La Fontaine’s tale “Le petit chien qui secouë de l’argent et des pierreries,” which had in turn been derived from Canto XLIII of Ludovico Ariosto’s “Orlando furioso
” - to introduce elements of romantic fantasy into the work at this point. At the opera’s denouement, just as Anselme and his troops are storming his own chateau - where the two lovers have holed up - the chateau suddenly disappears through the agency of a friendly fairy, and a marvellous Chinese palace and garden appear in its stead. Not only is evil thwarted, but there is now an excuse for a sensuous “Air pour les Pagodes,” during which the Chinese dolls which inhabit the enchanted garden “begin,” according to the stage directions, “to move their heads, come slowly to life, and leave their places to render [mock] homage to Anselme, dancing about him in comic postures.” The “Entrée de Chinois" which appears later in the act, during the pre-nuptial gaiety, further caters to the French love of chinoiserie.
However experimental “Les Paladins” may be as a dramatic work, no one familiar with the instrumental music of Rameau’s earlier works would fail to recognise his stamp here. Rameau’s mastery of colourful instrumentation is everywhere apparent - from the punctuating triple stops of the two solo violins in the third movement of the overture to the explicit instructions for subtle breathing and bowing in the “Entrée de Pélerins” ofAct I. In sum, it is difficult to disagree with the ardent late eighteenth-century Rameauphile, J.J.M. Decroix when he writes that the music of “Les Paladins” was so full of fire and imagination that it seemed to be composed by an artist in the prime of life rather than by an old man of 80 [sic].”
© 1991 R. Peter Wolf