You’re in for a slight shock at the start of this intriguingly programmed
disc. Thomas Zehetmair really digs hard in to the string in his performance
bringing great immediacy and visceral tensile strength
to bear. In aligning it so overtly and so dramatically to the more fervid
elements of Hungarian gypsy playing he tends to elide those elements of
classical stylisation that inhabit the piece. I can’t imagine that Jelly
d’Aranyi, its first performer and Ravel’s inspiration – at least to judge by
her surviving records – ever played it with this level of unrelieved
intensity. His apt portamenti and changes of tone colour are both
unremitting and challenging. It’s a high octane, sometimes exhausting
listen, but for those sated with suave performances of this work, its earthy
no-holds-barred approach will make a powerful appeal.
Pavane pour une infante défunte
is clearly textured, not
unsympathetically delineated but certainly not gauzy or over-sensual. Horn,
wind and harp are notable contributors toward the success of the
performance. This quality of clarity and slight interpretative aloofness is
present in Zehetmair’s Le tombeau de Couperin
where one finds that
he is keen to make his points deftly, but quite quickly. He is determined
that his Ravel will not wallow and although the internal balancing is good
there are times throughout the course of the disc when the recorded balance
is too close, resulting in a slight over-inflation of sound. Despite this,
orchestral felicities abound in this performance: the oboe in the
The second part of the disc is given over to Debussy, largely hyphenated.
Henri Büsser’s 1907 orchestration of the Petite Suite
well-known and to it Zehetmair and his forces bring fine qualities. That
said, once again, there’s a lofty inflation of sound from time to time;
sounds a bit unwieldy and less sensitive than it might.
There are no such interpretative problems in Emmanuel Ceysson’s lovely
performance of Danse sacrée et danse profane.
It was Ravel who, in
1923, orchestrated the two, small final pieces, Sarabande
and they make for an attractive envoi.
So this disc is not without some expressive and recording quibbles.
Nevertheless it has a personal stamp and a strong viewpoint and much is
Previous review: Albert Lam