Never Say No to Rameau

In the There’s Always An Anniversary For Something department, this coming Friday makrs the 250th year since the death of the great composer of the French baroque, Jean-Philippe Rameau. He was a masterful, stylish opera composer and also wrote Treatise on Harmony, which is still informative and relevant.

The classical music business being what it is, this is also a great excuse to exploit the back catalogue for new money! Just out last week, there is a 22 CD box from Erato that collects the recordings the label made of Rameau’s operas. This series returned the composer to prominence, and is a benchmark, with superb versions of Hippolyte et Aricie, Les Indes Galantes, Platée, Zoroastre, and more led by William Christie, Marc Minkowski, Nicholas McGegan, and others.

Christie also recorded some of this music on the Harmonia Mundi lable, and coming this week is a 10 CD box of all of those, which gives a decent sample of Rameau’s operatic work and his excellent harpsichord pieces.

Amazon is the best place to order the Erato box (though the price may drop at ImportCDs), while ImportCDs has the Harmonia Mundi collection for $20 less if you pre-order.

There are other pre-order bargains at ImportCDs on upcoming, worthwhile collections:

Cedille has boxed the Pacifica Quartet’s Shostakovich cycle, which is not only one of the best on disc but is augmented by selected String Quartets from the composer’s peers. It’s currently $22 at ImportCDs, an amazing value, but order it quickly, the release date is September 9.

Expected at the end of the month is a box from the vocal ensemble La Venexiana, collecting their recordings of Monteverdi’s complete Madrigal Books. A giant name whose music is actually heard infrequently, Monteverdi tends to be obscured by the shadow of Bach and the baroque, which makes it difficult to see deeper into the past. But he is one of the foundational figures in the Western classical tradition, and the Madrigals are at the core of classical music, no less so than the Well Tempered Clavier or Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas. The expressive and intellectual style of the music—and the notation—gives it an inherent freedom that is so lacking from contemporary classical music and performances. Again, pre-order price is best at ImportCDs, where you’ll save about $100 from Amazon.

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