Ravel • Debussy

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Debussy,Ravel
LABELS: Debussy,Ravel,review
ALBUM TITLE: Ravel • Debussy
WORKS: Works by Ravel & Debussy
PERFORMER: Emmanuel Ceysson (harp); Orchestre de Chambre de Paris/Thomas Zehetmair (violin)


I understand that Ravel’s Tzigane is a hard work to programme, since it doesn’t really ‘go’ with anything else. But to partner it with evocations of the 18th century does seem particularly curious. Thomas Zehetmair gives Tzigane  his all, which is plenty, and the result is a passionately involving performance that also respects Ravel’s written instructions.

The problem comes with the lighter works that follow it, not helped by a resonant acoustic and a close microphone placing. I’m all for energy and brilliance in movements like the ‘Rigaudon’ in Le tombeau de Couperin, and here there’s plenty of both. But the gentler movements tend to suffer: the ‘Menuet’, arguably the heart of the suite, is too forceful, and the super-plangent solo oboe lacks the necessary delicacy, even if his acrobatics in the ‘Prélude’ have been electrifying.

As for Debussy’s Petite suite (his title), the opening ‘En bâteau’, a portrait of a skiff inspired by Verlaine, sounds more like that of an ocean liner. But at the opposite extreme from Tzigane, Emmanuel Ceysson gives a sensitive reading of Debussy’s two dances for harp, following the general lead of harpists these days in choosing freely whether to arpeggiate chords or not.


Roger Nichols