Ravel: L’enfant et les sortilèges; Ma mère l’oye

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WORKS: L’enfant et les sortilèges; Ma mère l’oye
PERFORMER: Pamela Helen Stephen, Anne-Marie Owens, Juanita Lascarro, David Wilson-Johnson, Mark Tucker; New London Children’s Choir, LSO & Chorus/André Previn
CATALOGUE NO: 457 589-2


It has often been the case that André Previn's latter-day re-recordings of his favourite works have not equalled the originals in their energy or emotion – Rachmaninoff's  Second Symphony is a case in point. Here, however, his new account of Ravel's exquisite opera L'enfant et les sortileges has a number of advantages over its predecessor, recorded with the same orchestra for EMI as recently as 1982 (now on Eminence).

Not least, it boasts a Child (pamela Helen Stephen) who can hold a line, inlike the earlier, quavery Susan Davenny Wyner. I prefer EMI's Philip Langredge as the Teapot and Arithmetician to the later Mark Tucker and 1982's sanee whistle owl call has more atmosphere, but otherwise the new recording eclipsesall others. Previn has lost none of his exuberance, launching into the various jazzy numbers with evident glee and catching the poignancy as much as the humour.

Previn's L'heure espagnole has the venerable (mono) André Cluytens recording to contend with (EMI, 1953), but again comes up trumps. Maybe Kimberly Barber doesn't havr the vocal authority of denise Duval, but the rest of the cast is superb, especially John Mark Ainsley as the word-bound Gonzalve and Kurt Ollmann as the muleteer who in the end wins the day.

 The orchestra's Spanish colouring is marvellously wrought, and is carried forward into the apt coupling of the Rapsodie espagnole.

L'enfant has a suitably fairytale coupling, though Previn's first Mother Goose recording for EMI was a demonstration disc of the early digital era and is not really surpased by the performance here.


Matthew Rye