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Ravel / Katia Labeque, Marielle Labeque

Release Date: 05/08/2007 
Label:  Kml Recordings   Catalog #: 1111   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Marielle LabèqueKatia Labèque
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

RAVEL Rhapsodie espagnole. 1,2 Ma mère l’oye. 1,2 Menuet antique. 2 Pavane pour une infante défunte. 1,2 Prélude in a. 1 Boléro 1, 2 ,3 Katia Labéque (pn); Read more class="SUPER12">1 Marielle Labéque (pn); 2 Gustavo Gimeno (perc); 3 Thierry Bascary (perc) 3 KML 1111 (62:08)

Appropriately for the first release of their new label, Katia and Marielle Labéque have chosen music of Maurice Ravel, who shared their Basque origins. Regional color is heightened by the Labéques’ decision to seek the advice of a Basque composer, Michel Sendrez, in their preparation of the ubiquitous Boléro . Sendrez’s response was to augment the two-piano score with parts for traditional Basque percussion instruments, played here by two wonderful percussionists, Gustavo Gimeno and Thierry Biscary. The result is both interesting and highly artistic. Ravel’s works for two pianists at one and two pianos are already well represented in the catalogs—cf. Ma mere l’oye by Robert and Gaby Casadesus (Membran 222360); Walter and Beatriz Klien (Vox 5078); Beroff and Collard (EMI 86510); Argerich and Freire (DG 453576), both with the Rhapsodie espagnole ; and Mercier and Lortie (Chandos 9805) with the Rhapsodie and Boléro . Surpassing such strong competition is no small feat, but I suspect the Labéques may have done just that.

The Rhapsodie espagnole is a superb vehicle for the Labéques’ seemingly endless variety of touch, creating a tour de force of rare color and nuance. “Prélude à la nuit” is imbued with scintillating mystery as though emerging from the mist. In both the “Malagueña” and the “Habanera,” the Labéques produce brilliantly persuasive secco effects through detached phrasing with no recourse to the sustaining pedal. The concluding “Feria” unleashes rhythmical figurations and washes of sound that verge on intoxicating.

Ma mere l’oye is something of a signature piece for the Labéques, and I am partial to the naive and playful atmosphere of childhood they bring to this suite. “Laideronnette impératrice des pagodes” is stunningly delicious. In a similar vein the single pieces, Menuet antique, Pavane pour une infante défunte, and Prelude abound in details that make them seem fresh, despite their familiarity.

Even the over-familiarity of the iconic Boléro is somewhat effaced in the Labéques’ performance with Gimeno and Biscary. The cunning effects of rhythm and color the musicians achieve may not inspire you to discard your favorite orchestral version, but it’s great fun to hear. And for me, there’s interest in experiencing the underlying “bones and sinew,” so to speak, of this masterful score, which emerge in this version for two pianos and percussion.

What I’ve always found appealing in Katia and Marielle Labéque is the dead-center emotional presence of their music-making. It seems like they’re always having a good time. One also has the sense that they’ve examined the score at hand in every possible light, exploring a number of possible interpretive choices before coming to their final decision. They’re both risk-taking artists, a quality I particularly admire, even though the occasional failure may result (I think for instance of parts of the Two Episodes from Lenau’s Faust on their early Liszt recording, EMI 493932). But certainly this new Ravel recording hits the bull’s eye. Very good sound quality effectively conveys all the variety of the Labéques’ subtlety of touch and tone. Highly recommended.

FANFARE: Patrick Rucker
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Works on This Recording

Rapsodie espagnole by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Marielle Labèque (Piano), Katia Labèque (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1907-1908; France 
Ma mère l'oye by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Katia Labèque (Piano), Marielle Labèque (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: France 
Notes: Composition written: France (1908 - 1910). 
Menuet antique by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Marielle Labèque (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1895; France 
Pavane pour une infante défunte by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Katia Labèque (Piano), Marielle Labèque (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1899; France 
Prélude for Piano in A minor by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Katia Labèque (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1913; France 
Boléro by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Marielle Labèque (Piano), Katia Labèque (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1928; France 

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