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Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Boléro (1927) [15.39]
Lamoureux Concerts Orchestra/Maurice Ravel
Chansons Madécasses (3) (1926) [11.40]
Madeleine Grey (soprano)
Maurice Ravel (piano), and conducting an uncredited ensemble.
rec. Paris, 1932 (Boléro); 1928 (sic) (Chansons)
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)

Romeo and Juliet Suite No. 2, Op 64a (1937) [31.04]
Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra/Sergei Prokofiev
rec. Moscow 1938, Myezhdunarodnaya Kniga
No notes, no song texts, no track list or timings. ADD
PHILIPS 420 778-2 [58.23]

texts to the Chansons can be found at:

which site will then direct you to an English translation.

With the death of Toscanini and the evaporation of his intimidating presence, Ravelís Bolero can now be performed as the composer intended, that is, without notable tempo acceleration, and here is the composerís musical statement on the subject. The recording is in muffled, but quite listenable, tastefully restored 1937 monophonic sound. It is entirely convincing and can serve as a model for conducting students and musicologists. Fortunately we now have many fine newer recordings of this work which would bring a smile to the face of the composer and a frown to the face of Toscanini, and we are the better for it. Fifty years ago the issue of this disk would have caused a stir. Perhaps it was re-issued fifty years ago in barely penetrable, barely tolerable sonic guise, unable to convince in that form.

Madeline Grey (1887-1950) was an American singer from California famous for her Broadway successes. Madeleine Grey (1896-1976) (née Madeleine Nathalie Grumberg) was born in Villaines-la-Juhel, Mayenne, France, and gave her début concert with the Orchestre Pasdeloup in Paris in 1919, travelled widely including the U.S., and was well known for her performances of Ravel songs. Based on information in Wikipedia, I believe this is the Ms Grey who sings on this recording, although Wikipedia gives the date as 1932, not 1928. The Chansons Madécasses are beautifully sung in a profoundly committed, and listenably recorded performance directed by the composer. Although Jesseye Norman is generally the best at anything she decides to do, particularly a very dramatic song like Madécasses #2, these historic performances still hold their own in comparison to the very high standard set by Normanís EMI recordings.

The Prokofiev work is very familiar from many later recordings. This performance, probably recorded in full range on an acetate disk, since played many times, is exceptional and the sound is surprisingly good for the time and place, but features grating high frequencies and screechy strings. While the composer gives us a vivid portrayal of his musical vision, it is a vision not unfamiliar to us from newer better-sounding recordings.

Paul Shoemaker



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