Jean-Philippe Rameau was already 40 when he began writing the books that founded the science of tonal harmony as we still know it today. At 50 he began a series of stage works that changed the course of French opera. He wrote about 90 per cent of his musical and theoretical works during the last 30 years or so of his long life. So quite apart from the pleasure his music gives, his life is an inspiration to late starters everywhere. It’s never too late.
Rameau’s ideas about music harmony affected the course of music history, if not in the ways he expected. For a long time, his music was neglected. After the French Revolution it was associated with the despised Ancien Regime. A revival began in France during the late 19th century as a way of recovering Gallic pride after the defeat of the Prussian war in 1870. Now his music is heard all around the world. A sure sign of his comeback is that some of his arias now turn up regularly on Baroque opera compilations. But in a sense he never faded into obscurity at all. After all, it’s his grand unified theory of harmony that’s underpinned the music we’ve been making and hearing for the last few hundred years.
RAMEAU: Bruit de guerre 'pour entr'acte', from Dardanus – Orchestra of the 18th Century/Franz Brüggen (Philips 420 240-2)
RAMEAU: Prélude, from Suite in A minor – Sophie Yates (hpschd) (Chaconne CHAN 0659)
RAMEAU: Vénitienne, from Suite in A minor – Sophie Yates (hpschd) (Chaconne CHAN 0659)
RAMEAU: Les Tendres Plaintes, from Suite in D minor – Sophie Yates (hpschd) (Chaconne CHAN 0659)
RAMEAU: La Poule, from Suite in G – Sophie Yates (hpschd) (Chaconne CHAN 0708)
RAMEAU: Les Sauvages, from Suite in G – Sophie Yates (hpschd) (Chaconne CHAN 0708)
RAMEAU: Ouverture, from Les Indes Galantes - Les Talens Lyriques/Christophe Rousset (L'Oiseau-Lyre 4759107)
RAMEAU: Quelle plainte en ces lieux m'appelle - Anne Sofie von Otter (sop), Les Art Florissants/William Christie (DG Archiv 4778610)
RAMEAU: Air tendre en Rondeau, from Zoroastre - Les Arts Florissants/William Christie (Erato 43182)
RAMEAU: Tremblement de terre, ‘Dans les abîmes’, from Les Indes Galante - Les Arts Florissants/William Christie (Harmonia Mundi 901367/9)
RAMEAU: Tambourins I-II, from Dardanus – Orchestra of the 18th Century/Franz Brüggen (Philips 420 240-2)