Compared to his colleagues in the French Baroque harpsichord business, Rameau wrote relatively little keyboard music. It all fits on two discs. Like the keyboard sonatas of his contemporary Scarlatti, these pieces contain moments when Rameau clearly uses the harpsichord to evoke the sound of the orchestra–trumpets, flutes, and drums–but unlike Scarlatti's, several of these pieces were actually orchestrated and reappear as dance numbers in Rameau's operas. William Christie is our leading exponent of French Baroque opera, Rameau in particular, and it follows that he is alive to every detail in these fascinating and delightful miniatures. At midprice, this is a great deal.-David Hurwitz
Handel's operas–the center of his creative life before oratorios became the focus–have spent far too long in limbo awaiting rediscovery, which slowly started happening in the late '60s with works such as Giulio Cesare. But whether Handelian opera is still a novelty or you're already a rabid convert, this emotionally resonant, crisply played, superbly cast interpretation under William Christie and Les Arts Florissants is likely to shake up some of your ideas about the composer.
Before delving into the music on this collection, it's important to offer a note of caution to Chet Baker fans: Italian Movies is not a really a compilation of the trumpeter's work, so much as a series of film scores by the great composer Piero Umiliani between 1958 and 1964 on which he is featured either as a soloist or as part of the orchestra. It might better have been marketed to Umiliani fans, but it's tough to fault label Moochin' About for a little creative license when repackaging a previous issue of this music that appeared on Liuto Records – that one was co-billed to the pair. Other than on disc three – where Baker doesn't get to solo until track nine in the score for 1962's Smog, yet is still featured for 20 minutes – there is plenty of him to go around as he works amid his Italian contemporaries.