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The aria's a neat microcosm of the whole disc, and I couldn't help wishing she'd reached the conclusion a few tracks sooner. Petibon has a highly impressive technique, and her take on this repertoire is wholehearted, entering fully into the opulence and theatricality of the Bourbon court. Admirers of the voice as a beautiful display instrument will find a lot to enjoy, with many of the tracks chosen for their virtuosic qualities. But this undoubted brilliance can be a barrier to appreciating the real emotion in the music.
This is a pity, because there are some gems tucked away in corners of the disc, such as 'Viens, hymens' from Rameau's Les Indes Galantes. Petibon can be wonderfully plangent when the situation demands, with a tone that's unerringly sweet and pure. She's also right at home in the luxuriant but nuanced sensuality of 'Volez, plaisirs...', from Rameau's Les fêtes de l'Hymen et de l'Amour. The ensemble too is impeccably restrained and mutually responsive - witness the two purely instrumental interludes offered on the disc.
But just as often she indulges in a kind of hyperactive eccentricity, seizing the abundant possibilities for the grotesque, arch or supposedly humorous that this music offers. On first listening to 'Le perfide Renaud...' from Lully's Armide I was unsure whether the strange noises towards the end of the aria were French baroque yowls coming from my speakers or feline yowls seeping in from the gardens of Acton. There are plenty of other examples...hiccups, growls, moments of studied crudeness of various shapes and sizes.
If you're looking for a fully-costumed variety night out at the Parisian theatre complete with wigs and rouge, you may well enjoy this disc, because there isn't a hair out of place, and there's everything from the bucolic to the pathetic, via the comic and the Bacchic for good measure. But be warned you may end up preferring nothing at all. --Matthew Shorter
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As a fellow soprano specialising both in early music and other later classical vocal styles, I am extremely fastidious in my likes and dislikes when it comes to singers. When, therefore, I find a singer whose voice, intelligence and musicality produce ravishing quality like this, I am in alt...
In contrast to some of the comments here, I do not find Ms Petibon's voice shrill or white (except when she uses it so deliberately in order to create a particular emotional or stylistic effect). On the contrary, it is of a crystalline purity which she is able to tinge with warmer colours when necessary. I was hugely impressed by this recording, a worthy follow-up to the unbelievably beautiful recording of the Couperin Leçons de tènèbres which was sung by Petibon and Sophie Daneman.
What a sense of fun Patricia Petibon has! It's marvellous to hear baroque music performed with such stylish humour and grace, instead of the tediously uninterpreted choir-boy style which is considered by some to be the "correct" way of singing this type of aria. I listened with particular closeness to the arias from "Armide", which I had just performed myself - and was enchanted by Petibon's singing of them. Even though her voice is light in colour, she is perfectly adept at conveying vengeful hatred, despairing love, and a right royal snarling bad humour!
The accompanying instruments are taut, graceful, and beautifully recorded. The result is a treat to hear.
This CD is most highly recommended by me - and believe me, sopranos are tough critics of each other...!
To begin with, Petibon's voice is beautiful. As the other reviewer(s) put it, it is a cool, vibrato-less voice that might SEEM shrill, but her voice is never unpleasant. In fast or slow pieces, she is always a pleasure to listen to. Besides the sheer beauty of timbre of her voice, her musicanship is incredible: her interpretations are always appropriate, coloring the piece with humor, excitment, sex appeal (especially the Armida piece), anger, you-name-it. Technically she is very impressive, and handles the disc's runs, cascades, top-notes, etc. very well. (This disc is by no means a firweworks display though).
The orchestra plays with the same degree of musicianship, technicality and beauty. In some of the Rameaus pieces (especially the march), the instrumental textures really show off the great harmonies and voicings that Rameau is famous for; this disc is a great introduction to the composer's music, I wish she recorded Rameau more often.
Finally, the music itself is unique, interesting and entertaining all at the same time. The 2 two excerpts from Lully are not conventional arias, but they display how well the composer was able to blend drama into music. His music is both at the same time, and it soudns cliched but you have to hear it to treally understand it. The piece from Charpentier from "David and Jonathan" is stirring, and shows off what a talented singer and skilled orchestra can do with good music: it is musical, stirring, anguished and not something you will (probably) ever hear at the Met.
A wordy review, but this is one of my favorite records, one that I think everyone who has an intrest in the Baroque period should listen to. If you''re looking for an introduction to this very unique corner of classical music, try this CD.