The Necessary 100: There are three stops we have to make in 18th century France
I'm continuing my cherry-pick through Larry Beckwith's list with Jean-Philippe Rameau's Les Indes galantes. While we're in 17th century France, we need to make two more musical stops to pick up stuff I would like to recommend for the Necessary 100 list: Couperin's pioneering music for harpsichord and a Requiem setting by the nearly forgotten jean Gilles:
*Les Indes galantes, by Jean-Philippe Rameau
This piece was billed "ballet héroique" at its revival in 1736, which featured a new fourth act featuring "Les Sauvages" of New France (where a Frenchman and a Spaniard vie for the affections of Indian Zima, who wants nothing to do with the colonists). It is as much opera as ballet, and, while the colonial themes of each act are fascinating from a cultural-history point of view, the music is the real treasure here.
Here are two scenes from a production led by William Christie, featuring soprano Patricia Petibon as Zima (more details about the production here):
*The Art of Playing the Harpsichord, by François Couperin
Couperin was a generation older than Rameau, dying in 1733. His greatest musical legacy is a series of four books that laid out the full spectrum of possibilities of those twangy little keyboards. It's not fair to lump so many pieces into the the Necessary 100, so I'm choosing two of the most popular, "Les barricades mystérieuses," performed by Scott Ross on the harpsichord, and "Tic toc choc" as played by Alexandre Tharaud on the modern piano (a challenge, because it was written to be played on two separate keyboards), in a clever 2008 video by Elise McLeod:
*Requiem, by Jean Gilles
Here is someone who is nearly forgotten, but who wrote one of the most beautifully crafted settings of the Requiem Mass I have ever heard. Jean Gilles (1668-1705) lived in southern France, ending his short life as the master of music at the cathedral in Toulouse. His setting of the Requiem was used at Rameau's funeral in 1764 and, even more significantly, at the funeral of King Louis XV in 1774. It deserves to be heard much more often.
Here is an elegant 2005 performance by the Netherlands Bach Society: