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Editorial Board
Classical Editor
Rob Barnett
Seen & Heard
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MusicWeb Webmaster
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CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS

Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Histoires naturelles (1907) [19:25]
Ronsard à son âme 'Amelette Ronsardelette' (1924) [2:46]
Don Quichotte à Dulcinée (1934) [7:07]
Un grand sommeil noir (1895) [4:47]
Les grands vents venus d'outremer (1907) [2:06]
Sur l'herbe 'L'abbé divague. Et toi, marquis' (1907) [2:16]
Chants populaires (1911) [12:12]
Noël des jouets 'Le troupeau verni des moutons' (1907) [3:15]
Deux épigrammes de Clément Marot (1900) [4:46]
Cinq mélodies populaires grècques (1906) [8:00]
Deux mélodies hébraïques (1915) [6:17]
Gerald Finley (baritone); Julius Drake (piano)
rec. 11-13 July 2008, All Saints, East Finchley, London
HYPERION CDA67728 [73:28] 
Experience Classicsonline

Ravel’s songs are less well known than other aspects of his art. Yet they could be the work of no other composer, while at the same time traversing the widest span of his artistic nature. As such, this collection by Gerald Finley and Julius Drake covers that breadth of style and expression, across the range of the composer’s career, from Un grand sommeil noir (1895) to Don Quichotte à Dulcinée (1934).

As ever with Hyperion, the recording is truthful and beautifully balanced, while the documentation and presentation are second to none. The perceptive insert notes by Roger Nichols are excellent too, an important consideration in this repertoire.

The rich timbre of Finley’s voice suits Ravel’s songs well, and Drake has developed into one of the most sensitive accompanists alive today. The vocal subtleties are abundant and finely judged; not since the great Gérard Souzay (eg Testament SBT 1311) has a recording captured the nuances of this repertoire so pleasingly. For Finley’s French, while clearly not as idiomatic as Souzay’s since he is not French, is characterful and thoroughly excellent.

One of the great challenges in the French mélodie tradition, Ravel’s Histoires Naturelles demands musical responsiveness and linguistic dexterity. Finley has both in abundance capturing the natures of Jules Renard’s bird and insect portraits with unerring imagination. This peacock is proud and full of its own importance the guinea-fowl somewhat aggressive, helped in this portrayal by the splendidly trenchant piano phrasing, and the kingfisher very much at home by the river.

Perhaps the Don Quichotte songs might be more mature and knowing in their portrayal of Cervantes’ famous character, where again Souzay sets the benchmark (in the orchestral version, Testament 1312). But with Drake in his element the Iberian dance rhythms that Ravel loved so much, and created here for the last time. In both the Greek folk songs and this group of four Chants populaires Finley indulges but never overdoes the responses to the texts, again with supreme collaborative insights from his pianist. There are some discoveries to be found too, among the byways that help make this such a generously filled disc. Wonderful music too.

Terry Barfoot 




























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