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Rameau : Zoroastre Box set

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Audio CD (10 Mar. 2003)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Format: Box set
  • Label: CLASSICAL
  • ASIN: B00006F1PG
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 296,976 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
When I last did a review of a Rameau opera I said that recitative was used sparingly, I now understand that this wasn't quite correct and is something which is demonstrated well here. In these French baroque operas and opera-ballets the differences between recitative, aria, ensembles and orchestral dances are all rather blurred so that they merge into each other, also much of the recitative has a full accompaniment making it sound in passing like an aria. I really like this approach especially when compared for instance, to the operas of Handel where the distinction between recitative and aria is very clear. It means that instead of the recitative being something to endure on the way to the next aria, or at least, something which to me, holds up the progress of the musical ideas, becomes a more integral part of the music.

This particular opera has the usual William Christie touch, he is well tuned in to Rameau in my opinion and his soloists, chorus and orchestra all sing/play with a beautiful tone and colour, phrasing everything quite enchantingly.

The presentation is of course up to the usual Erato standard with a comprehensive booklet including and essay and libretto. Highly recommended!
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Format: Audio CD
It's always welcome to hear William Christie and his forces, especially in French baroque repertoire. However, I would suggest that anyone who already has the much earlier Kuijken/La Petite Bande recording, sticks with the latter. This set is good, but much of it sounds too rushed for my liking. Kuijken's more relaxed approach and more resonant recording seems to conjure up more of the mystery of the work for me.
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This is far the best release until now under all the aspects: voices, instruments, direction and not last audio quality.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9f1b07ec) out of 5 stars 6 reviews
41 of 41 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f1c5ad4) out of 5 stars Spectacular in every sense of the word 15 Feb. 2005
By Kicek&Brys - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Rameau couldn't help being a musical revolutionary. Perhaps the fact he was so far ahead of his time explains the extraordinary freshness his music seems to have in ours. Parisian audiences at the 1749 premiere of "Zoroastre", his fourth "tragedie lyrique", were just as puzzled as they had been at his first, "Hippolyte et Aricie", sixteen years earlier and the reception was lukewarm. Undeterred, the composer completely refashioned the opera in 1756 to produce the version presented here. It turns out to be a masterpiece. One of the things the original audience found hard to accept was the novelty of the story, which is derived neither from Clasical mythology nor Italian romantic epic. The opera is set in ancient Bactria, then part of the Persian empire, now part of modern Afghanistan. It concerns the efforts of the prophet Zoroaster to introduce a new religion celebrating goodness and light and to win the hand of Princess Amelite, heiress to the throne of the kingdom. Ranged against him are the evil sorcerer and tyrant Abramane, who derives his magic from the demonic forces of the old religion, and Erinice, another princess in love with Zoroaster, whose anguished dilemma whether to kill the hero or warn him of Abramane's plots make up a good deal of the drama. As Graham Sadler explains at length in the booklet notes, contemporaries immediately recognized the libretto as an allegory of the ideals of freemasonry, leading many later critics to decribe the opera as Rameau's "Magic Flute" (the similarity between the names Zoroastre and Sarastro is no coincidence), though you won't find any of the high jinks of Papageno More fancifully the opera has been described as Rameau's "Parsifal", a valid comparison if it refers to the way the struggle between light and darkness is reflected in the composer's orchestration, some of his most extraordinary. In the enchanter Abramane "Zoroastre" also has one of Baroque opera's most memorable villains, who expresses the Machiavellian credo that "Tous les succes sont legitimes" (success justifies every crime). The writers of the "Penguin Guide to Music" pay Rameau a backhanded compliment when they claim that in the dark music he wrote for Abramane he was clearly "taking a leaf out of Gluck's book." "Zoroastre" comes at least a decade before Gluck's reforms. Finally, the libretto affords a great opportunity for all the spectacle, ballets and choruses you would expect from a French Baroque opera : the wedding ceremonies, coronations, religious initiations and demonic sacrifices give ample scope for the composer's musical imagination.

This is not the first time the opera has appeared on disc. Twenty years ago, Sigiswald Kujiken and La Petite Bande recorded it for Deutsche Harmonia Mundi. Though that version (not currently available) was both excellently played and sung, it was never completely satisfactory. Its remote beauty was never very convincing as drama. Kujiken was obviously far more at home with the ethereal music of the good spirits than with the rowdiness of the demons. Christie, on the other hand, is absolutely gripping and gives us an all-round vision of the opera. By my count this is his ninth recording of a stage work by Rameau and this depth of experience certainly shows here, right from the opening bars, another of Rameau's innovations since he discarded the traditional prologue in favour of an overture illustrating the concepts behind the opera. Pounding chords representing both a thunderstorm and Abramane's oppressive hold over the people of Bactria give way to luminous music evoking the liberation and enlightenment Zoroastre will bring.The listener is immediately drawn into the drama by the muscular playing of Les Arts Florissants, who manage to combine a sense of forward propulsion with alertness to every orchestral detail. Christie's reading is grittier, never afraid to sacrifice a little smoothness for the sake of theatricality. This is seen to best effect in Act Four, where Abramane conjures up demons and the spirit of vengeance in order to destroy his hated rival. In Christie's hands, this powerful scene with its weird harmonies is as vivid as Rubens' painting of the Last Judgement on the cover. The same grittier approach applies to the young, mostly unknown cast. One of the other problems with the Kujiken recording was that because they were both sweet-toned it was difficult to tell the two rival soprano princesses apart. That doesn't happen here, not that the singing of Gaelle Mechaly as Erinice or Anna Maria Panzarella as Amelite is not beautiful and, when necessary, sweet, but you really hear the bitterness and torment in Erinice's voice and the determination in Amelite's. Mark Padmore is equally good as the ardent visionary Zoroastre, proving that the cruelly high writing for "haute contre" does not necessarily make for an effeminate hero. Bass Nathan Berg clearly relishes playing the evil Abramane, injecting the role with a mixture of gleeful malevolence and youthful dynamism. Christie also helps the drama along by shifting a few of the dances and arias to an appendix. Highly recommended to all lovers of French opera. A spectacular recording in every sense of the word.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f1cb0a8) out of 5 stars A remarkable work 21 Mar. 2007
By Steven Guy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Now this is something special.

Many will not know this great work and it has only been recorded once [?] before, correct me if I am wrong, and that was in the 1970s. So this recording will be welcomed by all lovers of the music of Jean-Philippe Rameau. What we have here is the revised [by the composer] 1756 version of the work, which featured a number of changes/improvements to acts 2, 3 and 5.

The cast of this recording is ideal and it features some well known names in the world of French Baroque music, namely: Mark Padmore, Nathan Berg, Gaëlle Méchaly and the wonderful Anna-Maria Panzarella. The tessitura of the voices is unusual. Rameau features one haute-contre in the role of Zoroaster himself, very stylishly sung by Mark Padmore. All the other men's roles, five in all, are for basses. The two female roles, Amélite and Érinice are sung by sopranos. Zoroastre is always out on his own, with a voice somewhat between that of the other men and the two ladies.

The chorus, which has some significant music is, as with all Les Arts Florissants recordings, very well balanced and not to large or too small.

The orchestra of Les Arts Florissants is large here. Rameau required 2 flutes, 4 oboes, 2 clarinets, 4 bassoons (surely Rameau's favourite woodwind instrument!), 2 horns, various percussion, strings and basso continuo. Rameau gives the orchestra a lot to do and, as with all of Rameau's operas, the orchestra plays almost continuously throughout the work.

Zoroastre has associations with Freemasonry and in some ways it is similar to Mozart's Die Zauberflöte in its depiction of the struggle between good and evil. The work is powerful it is one of Rameau's finest achievements. I only hope that Les Arts Florissants revisits this work soon (this CD recording, released in 2002, was the last recording made for the now hapless ERATO by William Christie and his ensemble), it is my hope that Les Arts Florissants under the direction of maestro William Christie, or, perhaps, Mr. Paul Agnew, makes a DVD recording of this great work.

This Zoroastre recording is one of the finest recordings of the music of Jean-Philippe Rameau I've ever heard.
HASH(0x9f1c8654) out of 5 stars Great recording, a must have recording if you are into this form of work. 16 Feb. 2016
By J. McFadden - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Great people to work with in ordering. Love this French work. Thanks
HASH(0x9f1cd294) out of 5 stars Christie's Rameau 20 Feb. 2016
By WB - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Christie scholarly & spirited interpretation of Rameau.
0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f1cb03c) out of 5 stars A disappointing Piece 3 Sept. 2014
By Jeffrey - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I was grossly disappointed by this opera. One would think Zoroaster, as a force of light, abutting against a ruthless tribal chieftain who summons demons would result in tempestuous, majestic music. Not so. No tympmany or trademark thunder. The libretto is weak as well--very soft, almost lulling. I love Rameau (my favorite composer) and admire the conducting of William Christie, who pulls every ounce of passion out of his performers, but this CD was a huge disappointment. I wouldn't recommend it.
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