The cover of this disc almost makes it enough for me to make a decision on purchasing it! A sublime reproduction of Watteau's "Homage to Love", this perfectly matches the ravishing quality of music on offer here and would surely be my recommendation for one of the year's best records in the vocal category.
Rameau wrote a large number of operas but here Skidmore and Sampson limit themselves to about seven with "Les Indes galantes" and "Platee" receiving the lion's share of the music. I enjoyed the lovely marches with the Ex Cathedra ensemble really turning on a rout for my much-maligned Celestion 5's! Sampson's voice is full of ethereal beauty and the chorus is also full throated and quite exemplary especially in "Les Indes galantes" with the Chorus of Sailors particularly beautiful.
"Dardanus" and "Zoroastre" are epic works full of fantastic historical plots that reveal the French's fascination with the classical period. "Regne Amour" from the latter is again wonderfully sung by the exquisite Sampson who really knows her French whilst the equally enticing "Marche" from "Dardanus" puts us immediately into the opera's pictorial plot. "Rossignols amoureaux" from "Hippolyte" is also pretty enticing with the strings sounding as if they are truly singing like nightingales!
I played this disc several times just for sheer enjoyment and can safely say that it has brought much joy and zest to my spirit. This is definitely a new treasure from the Hyperion catalogue and a collection that should remain the essential one for the collector of French grand opera.
Copyright © 2004, Gerald Fenech