Taking their name from Rameau’s opéra-ballet Les Surprises de l’Amour, this talented, young French ensemble now turns their attention away from the subjects of their debut recording, Rebel de père en fils and François Francœur, to tackle Michel-Richard Delalande and André Cardinal Destouches’ opéra-ballet for Louis XV, Les Éléments.First performed at the Tuileries in 1721 but enjoying considerable popularity beyond the court in the following decades, Les Éléments comprises a prologue, four sung entrées with danced divertissements and a concluding chaconne.

Jean-Féry Rebel composed his own extraordinarily original 1737 creation ballet Les Éléments (not recorded on Les Surprises’ previous release). But the present opéra-ballet is full of vivid instances of word-painting too, from the subtle melismatic treatment of passages involving undulating waves or the flying of arrows to the more startling howling and crashing of wind and thunder.

Les Surprises’ harpsichordist and Director, Louis-Noël Bestion de Camboulas, has again chosen to use chamber-sized forces throughout, focusing on instrumental colour – recorders, transverse flutes and oboe are particularly effective here – and the rapid, highly dramatic execution of dance rhythms and rhetorical gestures more potently to illustrate the brilliance of this work.

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