Hippolyte et Aricie
, Act IV, Scene I: Ah! faut-il
Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764)
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 5 Track 42
Rameau reminds us that it is never too late. His contribution to world history came fifty years near the end of an era and thirty years near the end of his life. His book, Treatise on Harmony
, is a buoy in the history of music that marks the early stage of tonality. And his music, like this brief excerpt, resounds beautifully unencumbered by his interest in music theory.
Rameau has added oboes and bassoons to the ensemble that helped Griselda’s
complaint. As reinforcements to the now modern string contingent they do not enjoy the moments of liberation given to the flute players. But these double reeds do extend the range of color for the strings. This is a subtle yet vital detail. Color is especially important concerning the opening pitch. This note, in the brief duration of a single beat, sets the stage. Hippolyte surveys the land in which he has enjoyed the glory of his family and the love of Aricie. The woodwinds help gently project this single pitch over this expanse of land.
What I like about this subtle excerpt is the wonderful part writing to be found in the string section. None of it is filler. Because Rameau supports melody with melody, these parts are a joy to read and hear.