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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Daphnis et Chloé (1910-12) [57.07]
Boléro (1928) [14.21]
Rapsodie Espagnole (1907) [15.25]
Alborada del Gracioso (1918) - from Miroirs [7.45]
Menuet Antique (1928) [6.43]
La Valse (1920) [12.30]
Ma Mère l'Oye (1911) [28.17]
Le tombeau de Couperin (1919) [18.53]
Pavane pour une Infante défunte (1910) [6.42]
Une barque sur l'océan (1910) - from Miroirs [7.28]
Fanfare - from L'Eventail de Jeanne (1927) [1.50]
Pictures at an Exhibition (Mussorgsky orch. Ravel) [32.42]
Danse; Sarabande (Debussy orch. Ravel) (1922) [5.35+4.33]
Valses nobles et sentimentales (1912) [17.32]
Choeur et Orchestre National de France/Eliahu Inbal
rec. 15-19 Jan 1987, 25-30 May 1987, 11-14 May 1988, 18-20 May 1988, Studio 104, Radio France, Paris. DDD
BRILLIANT CLASSICS 6430 [4CDs: ]



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This set is licensed from the Japanese company Denon who made the recordings in Paris within the first half decade of the CD medium.

Sparkle and élan are in regrettably short supply in this set although explosions of sound, when they appear, are shatteringly full. You can hear both the power and the sleepiness this in Boléro and Daphnis. While there is a winsome cameo charm to the Menuet Antique it is a mite lethargic.

In La Valse, very successfully done, the flutter-tongued flute volplaning registers strongly pointing up parallels in equally deserving marine-scape Le Tombeau de Chateaubriand by the highly-gifted Louis Aubert. La Valse's sauntering pace, breeze-ruffled gauzes and warm shimmer suggest a waltz that could be danced; it is at that pace. Other gestures remind me of the pot plants and chintz of Barber's Souvenirs. Memorable are the trumpets cutting aggressively through the blurred galloping pace of last few minutes of the piece.

The recordings were made by Yoshiharu Kawaguchi who clearly espoused the then new digital medium for its ability to portray the merest breath through to stunning ear-assaulting climaxes. Boléro is the classic example. The principle is a good one but here it is just too much. Strangely in the well sustained mystery of Alborada the engineers pull back at the first blast leaching away its impact. There are some extremely nice touches in this recording: listen to the atmosphere conjured at 2.46 tr.6.

In Rapsodie Espagnole Inbal and the orchestra are extremely imaginative. Listen at 3.43 to that violinistic sliding, slipping and turning (also at 4.10 in tr.5 CD2)

Inbal's approach rather suits the Ma mère l'Oie so if you can imagine and relish this piece at a Delian languid tempo with summer oozing through the veins then look no further. Some perhaps many will find this all rather torpid but Inbal does seem really engaged by the piece and its delicacy is not lost on him as you can hear in Laideronnette (tr.6 CD3). Perhaps predictably the 'slow burn' of the Apothéose works extremely well in all its melancholic triumph.

 

Le Tombeau de Couperin is a shade deliberate but as expected from my comments on the Ma Mère ballet the Pavane stretches, yawns and purrs elegantly. Not up to Monteux standards but a far from negligible or insensitive performance. By the way the two ballets are each given complete rather than in suite form. Une Barque is a lovely mood picture and works very well with the little surges at 0.56 suggestive of Bernard Herrmann. The thunderous and then miniature absurd Fanfare is a nice makeweight.

 

Pictures suffers from the warm languor and flaccidness of other parts of this set. The sound is well calculated with perspective, breadth and distancing extremely well conveyed. However this sounds somnolent even in the Tuileries. Things improve with the grotesque 'chicks' and Limoges but I still cannot recommend this strongly - upper low field at best.

Then come two other shorter Ravel orchestrations, both from 1922, each of pieces by Debussy. The buoyant and vivacious Danse Styrienne contrasts with the sunny melancholy of the Sarabande. The ppp gong stroke at 1.11 has never registered with such subtle mystery.

The Valse Nobles et Sentimentales must surely have served as the model for Barber's Souvenirs suite. Across its eight short movements this sequence works well with palatably digestible echoes of La Valse separated by mysterious interludes

If you are looking for ideal recommendations then opt for Martinon and the ORTF orchestra in EMI's superb bargain price eight disc set of the Debussy and Ravel orchestral works - analogue from circa 1972 but opulently imaginative at every level.

This is a bargain basement production produced without any notes. Its coverage is generous, untypically harvesting the Pictures, an unusually generous step. There are pleasures here for those favouring the more expansive approach to Ravel. Ma Mère l'Oie is good as is the Pavane; indeed this is hardly a disaster. It is simply that Martinon and EMI do everything better. The overall picture disappoints somewhat. I recommend that you shop around for the Martinon set or if Ravel is your special interest then, in their various historic guises, the Monteux (Philips) or Inghelbrecht (Testament) recently recommended by David Mellor on Classic FM are bound to please. The Monteux is in very good sound still. The Testament discs may be too much for the general listener but for Ravel enthusiasts Inghelbrecht is stunningly imaginative. I only wish that we could persuade Testament to allow us to review their material.

Rob Barnett



Gerard Hoffnung CDs

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British Music Soc.
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