This is a perfect collection of dances, overtures, airs, choruses, vocal duets, and trios representing the greatest French Baroque opera composers (and Gluck at his most French, in a tiny, manic vocal trio from Bauci et Filemone), ideal for those who want to get their pieds wet but may have a fear of this particular period, place, and repertoire. And true, the cream-puffed, bewigged music can seem a bit much until you learn to love it--just see it as caloric but not filled with trans-fats, and sit back and enjoy.
These highlights are taken from other recordings; it is a compilation meant to recreate a stroll through the gardens at Versailles when the fountains are all a-twitter and the music is playing through the topiary. Be that as it may, it's a delicious collection of French frippery.
There are 28 tracks, some as short as 33 seconds, one almost 12 minutes, but most in between and under four minutes. This assures that we cannot become bored, and a wild dance will be followed by an introspective air; a suite for strings will be followed by some lovely wind music; triumphal music or an aria of betrayal will bring forth trumpets and drums. The textures are ravishing as played on period instruments, and the timpanists really know how to thwack.
The performances are splendid, with Christophe Rousset and his great Talens Lyriques at their most lively and lovely, depending on the situation. The accompanying notes are a bit precious but do manage to introduce the listener to not only the specific music, but the forms (passacaille, chaconne). And if you look carefully, you'll note that the dates for Rameau are given as "1683-1784". Quite the revelation. Highly recommended. --Robert Levine