This 2-CD set of dance numbers from Rameau operas captures Jordi Savall’s period-instrument band Le Concert des Nations playing with all the lusty, effervescent joie de vivre the music demands.

The “suites” put together by Savall trace a similar but more unified trajectory to Marc Minkowski’s Imaginary Symphony Rameau album (Les Musiciens du Louvre on Archiv). The present collection is a reminder that the composer’s instrumental music was just as thrilling and inventive as what he wrote for the voice: earthy and robust like a good Provençal stew, without sacrificing the majestic air of refinement that captivated the court of Versailles.

One can only marvel at the punchy phrasing in the overture to Zoroastre and be seduced by the exotic percussion in Air des Incas from Les Indes Galantes. An authentic musette, that rare and peculiar Gallic bagpipe, makes an appearance in Naïs to spice up the French Baroque palette. Natural horns in Les Boréades, Rameau’s final tragédie en musique, are less graceful than Les Arts Florissants’ under William Christie (Opus Arts DVD) but richer for their pungency. Surging strings, turbulent transverse flute and a wind machine summon elemental forces, while delicate gavottes have more charm and snappy detail than those played almost at half-speed in Minkowski’s reading. 

An excellent primer for the ACO’s 2012 collaboration with Sydney Dance Company based on Rameau’s exquisite contredanses.