The 18th century was a time when deportment and noble behaviour were essential for people of quality. Dance formed a major part of all social ceremonies and theatrical presentations. Nowhere was dancing more highly regarded than in France, where ballets de cour assumed great importance, and the Lullian tragedie en musique had its counterpart in the ballet en action of the opera-ballet. The Fantaisie (1729) and Plaisirs champetres (1734) of Jean-Fiery Rebel, reflecting the differing personalities of their prima ballerinas Camargo and Salle, have been called “choreographic symphonies”. Bucolic pastimes were a favourite subject for these courtly entertainments: Rameau’s “heroic pastoral” Daphnis et Égle (1753) is represented by a large number of movements which illustrate its rich orchestration and expressive depth.
“Sigiswald Kuijken’s Petite Bande play with brisk rhythmicality, clean-cut precision and an engaging stylishness, at the same time not ignoring dynamic contrast. Howard Crook rises to the pathos of Acis’s air in Lully’s “heroic pastoral”, but is heard at his best in ornate fast-moving airs by Rameau.” (Gramophone)