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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Miroirs (1904-5), Gaspard de la Nuit (1908), Pièce en forme de Habanera (1907) (Maurice Dumesnil), Pavane pour une Infante défunte (1899), Menuet sur le nom d’Haydn (1909), La Valse (1919-20) (arr. Himy)
Eric Himy (piano)
Rec: Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Buffalo, NY, 7th-9th May 2002
IVORY CLASSICS 64405-72009 [73’50"]

AVAILABILITY

www.IvoryClassics.com

There’s far too much wrong with these Miroirs. On the first line of Noctuelles Ravel has two separate phrases, each starting pianissimo and making a crescendo; we just get a confused mass of notes in a single crescendo. Then the rest at the bottom of the page is pedalled through so we perceive only one single arpeggio instead of first one, then a little hesitation, then another. All this and so much more is beautifully clear in Cécile Ousset’s Eterna recording (Berlin Classics 0032252BC) which I reviewed recently and I think in retrospect that I didn’t praise her classically French virtues half enough. Nor does she blur the second bar of Oiseaux tristes with pedal as Himy does (so he finds himself twice sitting on a second inversion chord that Ravel never wrote). The notoriously difficult repeated note passage in Alborada del Gracioso sounds confused; from Ousset it is crystal clear. Nitpicking points, you may think, but when there are five or six of them per page it hardly seems worth going on; I can’t recommend this.

The first two pieces of Gaspard go much better (has he had it in his repertoire longer?) and are attractively done. But in Scarbo the effort is too plain. And in the pianissimo passage against shimmering octaves (p. 26 if you have a Durand score handy) he is nowhere near pianissimo, horribly near forte in fact. Ousset is excellent again here.

It hardly saves the day at this point that the Pièce en forme de Habanera is atmospherically realised, the Pavane is sensitively done (except for a heavy opening) and I really liked the Menuet. Slightly more leisurely than usual, this performance finds more in the music than many.

Himy has made his own adaptation of La Valse, incorporating more of the colouristic orchestral details than Ravel himself did. This cuts no ice with me when I hear what is apparently a bar by bar struggle to get through it which leaves no time for elegance or grace and which gives no idea of the score’s steady build-up. It was a pleasure to hear again Francesco Libetta’s version (VAI VAIA 1196) which recreates much of the style of the best orchestral versions.

Himy gets a fine recording and writes good notes, though he is misinformed when he says Alborada derives its name from the French aube and the Italian alba. Alborada is simply the Spanish translation of the French word aubade.

This is a short review by my standards but this is a case where the less said the better.

Christopher Howell



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