The present disc contains works by French composers from Rameau to Berlioz, together with arias by non-French composers who set French texts such as Sacchini (1734-1786), Piccinni (1720-1800), the Basque Arriaga, who died at 20 in 1826, and more familiar non-French composers such as Cherubini and Gluck.
The arias are all highly dramatic. This disc is most recommendable. Arias by the lesser known composers, such as Sacchini and Piccinni, are just as interesting as those of the better known Gluck and Rameau. The Cherubini aria is especially fascinating for its bassoon solo and it is very gratifying to have a composition by Arriaga who seems to have been a genuine genius. Dying so young, he had hardly the time to write an opera and is represented by a cantata written when he was just 17. Veronique Gens’s performance of this music is very accomplished and satisfying. She has a voice of excellent quality and a sound technique. Her French is a joy and her combination of crisp declamation and pure legato is just what this type of music needs.
Interspersed throughout the recital are orchestral excerpts from the operas from which the arias are drawn. If we must have period instruments in this music, Les Talens Lyriques do as good a job as is possible, except in one of the Gluck excerpts when their tone is rather scrawny.