ALBUM TITLE: Ravel: L’enfant et les sortilèges & Ma mère l’Oye
WORKS: L’enfant et les sortilèges & Ma mère l’Oye
PERFORMER: Hélène Hébrard, Delphine Galou, Julie Pasturaud, Jean-Paul Fouchécourt, Marc Barrard, Nicolas Courjal, Ingrid Perruche, Annick Massis; Choeur Britten; Jeune Choeur Symphonique; Maîtrise de l’Opéra National de Lyon; Orchestre National de Lyon/Leonard Slatkin
CATALOGUE NO: 8.660336
Few would dispute Leonard Slatkin’s claim that the extra minutes of music added by Ravel to transform the original piano duet suite into the ballet version of Ma mère l’Oye ‘are sheer magic’. Not only are they beautiful in themselves, they link the five pre-existing pieces with absolute naturalness so that, as in the case of Ernie Wise, you can’t detect the joins. This is a loving performance with everything in its place.
The same cannot quite be said of this performance of L’enfant et les sortilèges. It’s a very tricky work to bring off, and here voices and orchestra are not always absolutely together, most notably on the Child’s final ‘Maman’ where the strings lag. This is a crucial moment, where the descending fourth, the motto interval of the whole opera, must act as a final seal on the work. The faulty ensemble here is especially unfortunate as the Child’s earlier ‘Maman’, which excites the animals’ fury, is sung almost to a descending major third.
The all-French cast articulate the text splendidly, with tenor Jean-Paul Fouchécourt doing his usual superb number (or numbers) as L’Arithmétique. Mezzo Hélène Hébrard as the Child sounds suitably young and fresh, soprano Annick Massis as the Fire negotiates her high coloratura with accuracy and élan, and my only vocal regret is that baritone Marc Barrard ignores the Grandfather Clock’s sudden, plaintive piano dolce (‘quiet and sweetly’) on ‘Moi, moi qui sonnais’. A final black mark to whoever engineered the sudden loss of atmosphere between the two scenes, ruining another moment of sheer magic. Roger Nichols