First published in the Guardian on 31 August, 2017
Les Talens Lyriques/ Rousset (Aparte)
The sculptor Pygmalion renounces love then falls for one of his own creations (the image of a perfect woman, whatever that looks like). He persuades Venus to bring the statue to life, and in Rameau’s hands the myth becomes a seductive ‘acte de ballet’ — basically a one-act comic opera that’s heavy on instrumental numbers, almost more dance than song. It is glowing, gregarious music, one of Rameau’s most popular pieces during his lifetime and this new recording from Christophe Rousset and his French baroque specialists Les Talens Lyriques demonstrates why. The playing is sumptuous, broad, vibrant; Cyrille Dubois sounds rapt and vigorous as Pygmalion, a natural for Rameau style which is as much about acting as singing, while Celine Scheen is more piquant as the Statue. Also on the disc we get a graceful, earthy performance of Rameau’s orchestral suite Les Fetes de Polymnie.