The Rameau Project

 

Professor Graham Sadler (University of Oxford & Birmingham Conservatoire)

Professor Alain Viala (Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford)

Dr Jonathan Williams (Director of College Music, St Hilda’s College, Oxford)

 

The Rameau Project

The Rameau Project is a major international multidisciplinary research project devoted to the operas of Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764). With the 250th anniversary of Rameau’s death taking place in 2014, this ambitious venture is uniting international scholars, performers, institutions and organisations to advance our understanding of the most significant composer of the French Enlightenment.

Rameau and the OAE

At the heart of the project will be the world-renowned Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE), whose innovative new relationship with the Music Faculty began in November 2012 with the Anacréon Project. Led by Dr Jonathan Williams, this collaboration brought back to life Rameau’s one-act opera, Anacréon (1754), in Jonathan’s new edition published by Bärenreiter. Thanks to its success, Jonathan and the OAE have been able to continue exploring Rameau’s music together.

Why is such a project necessary? A contemporary of Bach, Handel and Vivaldi, Rameau wrote over 30 operas for the court of Louis XV, as well as ground-breaking treatises whose findings still hold true today. Despite this, he remains one of the least studied of the Enlightenment’s great figures. His music, whilst enjoying a renaissance stimulated by his bicentenary year in 1983, has been only infrequently performed in the UK since and is overlooked by all but a few British scholars. In France his operas are widely performed but many have never been performed in Britain (nor has one been recorded here since 1980). Almost half of his operas are still unavailable in print and, remarkably, two biographies appearing this year are the first in over 50 years.

This year’s anniversary presents an invaluable opportunity to reappraise Rameau’s operas. Recent productions at ENO and Glyndebourne are welcome signs of a renewed interest the UK and, with his music being published in Bärenreiter’s ambitious new complete edition – the first in a century – a well-resourced resurgence is possible.

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