Poulenc/Ravel

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Poulenc/Ravel
LABELS: Koch International
WORKS: L’histoire de Babar; Ma mère l’oye Suite
PERFORMER: Meryl Streep (narrator), Mona & Renee Golabek (piano) New Zealand SO/JoAnn Falletta
CATALOGUE NO: 3-7368-2
The choice is between storytelling and chamber music. Meryl Streep will hold anybody spellbound who isn’t allergic to a lightly American voice. The tone is friendly and direct, and she has the natural actor’s command of imperceptibly increasing pace from a laid-back start, responding to the vivacity of the music.

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Succinct, enchanting versions of fairy-tales introduce the keyboard Mother Goose, which is played plainly and simply. The orchestral performances are strong, sensitive and well balanced within a bottom-heavy acoustic. But you won’t buy this for the orchestra alone and it would have been lovely to have more stories.

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Not so for the Fibonacci Sequence, where the tale is told with arch condescension. The distinction here is David Matthews’s arrangement of Babar, with harp part added for the recording; it invokes the joys of chamber playing and makes a welcome addition to the Poulenc ensemble repertoire. These fine players add a sample of Poulenc’s wide-ranging chamber music proper, the pick being the Horn Elegy. Other pieces suffer from the group’s apparent belief that understatement is a key Poulenc quality. What about emotion and fun? Robert Maycock