Anyone familiar with Marc Minkowski and Les Musiciens du Louvre's Une Symphonie Imaginaire is acquainted with the fact that Jean-Philippe Rameau composed some of the most intensely eccentric and challenging orchestral music in the eighteenth century. While the great popularity of the Minkowski release on Archiv can be credited for helping bring a far larger audience to Rameau than he previously had, the composer of Louis XIV's theater has never lacked for advocates, and one interpreter long dedicated to his cause is Frans Brüggen, leader of the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century based in Utrecht. Glossa's Jean-Philippe Rameau: Orchestral Suites in its Glossa Cabinet series is a reissue of a disc it originally released in 1998; it features Brüggen and his expert period band from a live concert held in Utrecht in the 1996-1997 seasons. Of course, Rameau does not have stand-alone orchestral music, and all such music is excerpted from the generous amount of overtures, ballet music, and dances found in his operas. Glossa pairs the relatively well-known suite from Rameau's Les Fêtes d'Hébé (1739) with the far more obscure music for the pastorale héroïque Acante et Céphise (1751); by 2008, only Brüggen, Minkowski, and Jean-Louis Petit have recorded anything from this opera. Although the performance of Les Fêtes d'Hébé is fine, Acante et Céphise is what really stands out here. Brüggen is a famed recorder player himself, and his special attention paid to winds in the performance makes a difference; musette-inspired pieces wheeze away with a dreamy, pastoral quality and at a couple of points clarinets appear, a real surprise in orchestral music this early. Brüggen's handling of Rameau's emotionally touching closing "Menuets" movement of Acante et Céphise shows his depth in this music, not just to do right by the period, but also to project the distinct emotional profile that arises from Rameau's creativity and originality.
The recording, as mentioned, is live, and does not have the striking force or penetration of Minkowski's with Les Musiciens du Louvre; it's clear and balanced, but comparatively lacking in presence. However, these are splendid interpretations, and to somewhat expand your horizons in the field of Rameau's orchestral music, this isn't a bad place to go.