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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Jean-Féry Rebel; Christoph Willibald Gluck - Les Élémens; Alessandro (Reinhard Goebel)


Composer: Jean-Féry Rebel; Christoph Willibald Gluck; Georg Philipp Telemann
  • (01-10) Rebel - Les Élémens, simphonie nouvelle for 2 violins, 2 flutes & continuo
  • (11-15) Telemann - Sinfonia (Sonata or Septet), for 2 oboes, strings & continuo in E minor, TWV 50/4
  • (16-23) Gluck - Alessandro (Les amours d’Alexandre et de Roxane), ballet

Musica Antiqua Köln
Reinhard Goebel, conductor

Date: 1995
Label: Deutsche Grammophon



Rebel was a contemporary of Couperin and a pupil of Lully, and it was for a revival of the latter's opera, Cadmus et Hermione that Les Elemens was staged as an afterpiece. Les Elemens is a symphonie de danse or choreographed suite with vivid programmatic content. That much is startlingly evident in the very first bars of the opening section, a representation of Chaos in which all the notes of the harmonic scale are united in a single cluster of sound. Reinhard Goebel and his Cologne Musica Antiqua have always revelled in this kind of extrovert gesture and from the moment of their premier coup d'archet, of which these musicians have so often proved latter-day masters, the listener is captivated by Rebel's often astonishing charivari. The remainder of the suite is harmonically plain sailing though, again, Rebel proves himself well up to maintaining a lively musical interest. Each element has its own distinguishing features, Earth recognizable by its tied bass notes, Water by athletic passagework on the flutes, Air by reiterated piccolo trills, and Fire by sparkling upper string passagework.

What a contrast exists between the alluring superficial charm of Rebel's suite and the Telemann sonata which follows. For though the idiom retains a distinctly French bias, the spirit of the piece has a seriousness of purpose which deeply penetrates the elegant rococo veneer of his trios and quartets. E minor was a rewarding key for Telemann and so it proves here in some beautifully sustained writing for violin, oboe, two violas and cello with bassoon, violone and harpsichord. This is the work's first appearance on disc, though I first heard it some five years ago when Goebel brought it to London's Lufthansa Baroque Festival. Goebel has greatly refined his performance in the meantime.

Lastly, in a particularly attractive mixed programme, comes ballet music by Gluck. Alessandro or Les amours d'Alexandre et de Roxane was first performed in Vienna in 1764 but has evident French connections and affinities. The music is delightful and was completely new to me. Its eight movements are effectively varied and deftly orchestrated, with some characteristic Gluckian sounds among the horns and bassoons. By far the most substantial movement is the concluding Chaconne, an impressive piece of writing with commanding interventions by trumpets and drums.

Altogether, this is a most appealing release, well equipped to suit a wide variety of tastes. Excellent recorded sound and a typically animated essay by Goebel merely added to my enjoyment.

-- Nicholas Anderson, Gramophone


Jean-Féry Rebel (18 April 1666 – 2 January 1747) was an innovative French Baroque composer and violinist. He was a child violin prodigy and a student of the composer Jean-Baptiste Lully. Rebel served as court composer to Louis XIV and maître de musique at the Académie. Rebel was one of the first French musicians to compose sonatas in the Italian style. Many of his compositions are marked by striking originality that were not fully appreciated by listeners of his time. Among his boldest original compositions is Les élémens ("The Elements") which describes the creation of the world.


Christoph Willibald Gluck (2 July 1714 – 15 November 1787) was a German composer of Italian and French opera in the early classical period. He gained prominence at the Habsburg court at Vienna, where he brought about the practical reform of opera's dramaturgical practices and broke the stranglehold that Metastasian opera seria had enjoyed for much of the century. Gluck was extremely popular and widely credited with bringing about a revolution in French opera. He wrote eight operas for the Parisian stages, fusing the traditions of Italian opera and the French national genre into a new synthesis.


Reinhard Goebel (born 31 July 1952 in Siegen, West Germany) is a German conductor and violinist specialising in early music on authentic instruments and professor for historical performance at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. Goebel studied violin with Franzjosef Maier, Saschko Gawriloff, Marie Leonhardt and Eduard Melkus. In 1973 Goebel founded his early music ensemble Musica Antiqua Köln that he had led till its dissolution in 2007. He has been an important figure in early music and was instrumental in rediscovering the music of Johann David Heinichen and Jan Dismas Zelenka.


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