Arts Review: Rameau’s “Tendre amour” (from Les Indes Galantes) performed by Les Arts Florissants

Hola. This music helps to relieve symptoms of gastritis after having written or read articles about dreadful US politics (such as these two: here and here) from and about the US of Hypocrisy.

This lovely piece, “Tendre amour”, is performed here by Les Arts Florissants and conducted by their founder and conductor, William Christie. To el barrio rosa/the pink barrio the mood of this piece feels very appropriate for the times we’re living in. “Tendre amour” is from the ballet Les Indes Galantes by the French composer Jean-Philippe Rameau.

The piece begins with the orchestra, and they play beautifully in this performance. I noticed the faces of some of the violinists (notice the second chair especially) and then la mujer/the woman at about 59 seconds into the video. They and others look very pleased that they’re having the opportunity to play this piece and they’re really enjoying it. I would be.

The Orchestra and Chorus of Les Arts Florissants are superb. The choral entry begins quietly with the tenor section. And those tenors, ah! I do love their tenor section. These days I pay very special attention to the tenor section of a Chorus. For those who may not know, the tenor section of a Chorus is often the weakest section, but that’s not at all the case with the Choruses that I promote here at el barrio rosa/the pink barrio. The tenor section of Les Arts Florissants reminds me of the tenors of the outstanding University of Maryland Chorus, which I’ve written about many times (to help keep their legacy, many accomplishments and place in history alive). University Choruses are not necessarily known for having the best tenor sections, but that was not at all the case with The Maryland Chorus, which performed regularly with the National Symphony Orchestra in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall especially during the Antal Doráti years (they were his favourite Chorus). I heard Dr Paul Traver, the Chorus Director of The Maryland Chorus, say on at least one occasion in our rehearsals, “I have the best tenors!” (and then he did a little dance). He did have the best tenors. The Choral Arts Society of Washington (Norman Scribner) and the San Francisco Symphony Chorus (Margaret Hillis/Vance George) also had excellent tenor sections.

I read that Les Arts Florissants often use this Rameau piece as an encore. I can see why. It makes for a nice encore and in this performance the soloists for the other choral works on the programme joined the Chorus, although I think it was sort of a spur of the moment thing because I noticed that the soloists didn’t have their own vocal scores so they had to share scores with the choristers. Mi amigo/my friend said: “That would be something only you would notice because of your choral experience.” Probably. And the soloists knew to use their “chorister voice” and not their “soloist voice” when singing with the Chorus.

I’ve heard one other performance of this piece by Les Arts Florissants in a different venue and performed more recently and with mostly different choristers from what I could tell from what the camera showed of the Chorus. I did see some familiar faces from the first performance in the video below. The second performance is excellent, but I prefer the first performance below from a choral perspective. Although there’s more tenor sound — which really appeals to me — in the second performance. Maybe it has to do with the mic setup.

My Conservatory Class For the Day: Alright class, now pay attention, por favor. I’m going to get more technical here for the more musically-advanced readers. You may notice that the two performances are in different keys. I don’t know why and I haven’t seen the score — even though I’ve looked for it — to see which key Rameau indicated, but the second performance is higher-pitched than the first performance. The second performance is in the key of C Major. Having it higher-pitched also makes my favourite tenors’ line higher on the staff (as well as the other parts – SAB)! Their earlier performance is a step lower in the key of B Flat Major, roughly. I say “roughly” because it’s not perfectly in tune with B Flat Major. It’s slightly sharp of B Flat Major, but that’s the closest key to it. The choristers with perfect pitch were likely cringing by the key transposition. The second performance uses a lute which adds a nice effect, and the Chorus is split on either side of the stage, which would make it difficult to hear each other well and to see Christie’s conducting well.

And the Chorus bowed. I liked that. It looks so gracious to the audience. The only other Chorus I’ve ever seen bow was (again) the University of Maryland Chorus. Dr Traver rehearsed our bow for precision — although he always made the audience “work” for the bow — and it always generated quite a roar from the audience in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall or at Wolf Trap. It did look quite impressive to see 150-175 voices/choristers bowing together precisely. So I was glad to see Christie have his Chorus bow.

This Rameau piece was also on the same programme as the Lully Te Deum that I wrote about awhile back, which you can watch at that link. Enjoy. Chau.—el barrio rosa

The more recent performance by Les Arts Florissants:

4 comments on “Arts Review: Rameau’s “Tendre amour” (from Les Indes Galantes) performed by Les Arts Florissants

  1. Wes in Arlington

    Really good.

    I’m from Arlington outside the District, and I graduated from the University of Maryland College Park although not from the School of Music but I had a real fondness for our University Chorus. I think most students and faculty knew how special they were even students with no connection w/ the School of Music. It’s not every day that a University Chorus has an ongoing collaboration with a major symphony orchestra. Thanks for all your mentions of them.

Fin. The End.