Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

RAVEL: Bolero & Ma Mère L'Oye
Jeremy Siepmann (narrator) and the Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Kenneth Jean
Issued 2001: date and place of recording not given.
NAXOS 8.558032-33 [97:38] (two discs)
Crotchet   AmazonUK   AmazonUS  Amazon recommendations



This is one of the first issues in a Naxos series designed presumably to 'educate' the listener new to classical music. Jeremy Siepmann presents a minute analysis of the music, his commentary reproduced in a substantial booklet which also contains much background information, both general and particular. I have not heard the others in the series, but if this Ravel is a reasonably representative example, then I have my doubts. Particularly in the case of Bolero it seems to me that Siepmann has taken a very ponderous sledgehammer to crack a musical nut of slender proportions. The commentary runs to no fewer than 28 separate tracks: each elaborates some detail of structure or orchestration which is then illustrated in a performing extract. At the end of the commentary - which lasts twice as long as the actual piece - a complete hearing follows.

One is reluctant to 'knock' what is clearly a well-intentioned enterprise, but one cannot help wondering at whom it is targeted. I was immediately put off by Siepmann's first words - in which he contrives to work Elvis Presley into his narrative. And every time he uses a dynamic mark he solemnly translates it into English. Would a potential listener in need of such elementary information be likely to want this kind of extended commentary? In any case, Siepmann seems to undermine his own case by stating in a chapter entitled Ways of Listening: ' . . . directed listening can be a valuable, perhaps even an indispensable tool in the exploration of a masterpiece . . . but it can never rival the rewards of undirected, observational listening.' Quite so.

Having known this music all my life (and conducted Bolero on two occasions) I am probably not the right person to review this package. Perhaps the editor should search for an articulate musical 'beginner' to review future issues . . .

Performance and recording are adequate - certainly good enough for the purposes of this exercise, if not in the class of well-established recordings.

Adrian Smith

Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.