Ravel Albora del gracioso

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Maurice Ravel
LABELS: Zig Zag Territories
ALBUM TITLE: Ravel Albora del gracioso
WORKS: Albora del gracioso; Boléro; Schéhérezade; Une barque sur l’océan; La Valse; Pavane pour une infant défunte
PERFORMER: Karine Deshayes (mezzo-soprano); Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg/Emmanuel Krivine


Emmanuel Krivine draws magnificent sounds from the orchestra and I particularly warm to his determination that the full range of Ravel’s dynamics shall be heard – pianissimos are mysterious, fortissimos blazing. He has, quite rightly, no truck with the bizarre but dangerously persistent myth of the ‘asexual’ Ravel. In the whole disc, I can find only one tiny textual fault: in ‘La flûte enchantée’, two bars before the central Allegro, the flute misses out a C sharp. While this doesn’t make nonsense of the music, anyone who knows the score will naturally be slightly disconcerted.

But I differ from Krivine on two points, and do believe I have the composer on my side. Firstly, the tempo of Boléro. It has been said that the faster you play Boléro, the longer it seems: a slower tempo tends to induce a trance, in which the passage of time is obliterated. Krivine’s crotchet=74, though only minimally above the marked crotchet=72, injects energy where it’s not required; and surely one should also bear in mind the crotchet=62 of Ravel’s own 1930 recording…

Secondly, the unmarked, abrupt tempo changes in the first half of La valse pre-empt the marked ones in the second half. When Ravel praised Ernest Ansermet for his ‘flexible’ performance, I do not believe this countermanded his lifelong hatred of rubato and ‘interpretation’ in general, and his insistence that performers simply read what’s written.

Finally, Karine Deshayes’s charming voice often has to fight to be heard, especially against the woodwind. Ravel is on record as saying he did not want Shéhérazade to sound like a symphonic poem. So, nearly a very fine disc, but not quite.


Roger Nichols