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Ravel, Berlioz: Song Cycles / Behrens, Travis


Release Date: 03/18/2010 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 411895   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Maurice RavelHector Berlioz
Performer:  Hildegard Behrens
Conductor:  Francis Travis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 52 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Shéhérazade and Les nuits d'été seem to have become a 'traditional' coupling, and the two song cycles attract sopranos (or mezzo-sopranos) well outside the French culture to which they are so closely bound. Hildegard Behrens now joins the French, English and American singers listed above, and contributes a version well worthy of their company. Less instinctively within the music than Crespin (Decca), less passionately committed to it than Baker (HMV), less tremendously emotional than Norman (Philips), she has a distinctive style and individuality of her own. She does not wholly overcome the disparity in weight and manner in the songs in Les nuits d'été, but that is not so much her fault as Read more Berlioz's. "Villanelle" is frankly too heavy, too urgent for this enchanting little song, with throbbing emotion and great heartfelt rallentandos at the cadences: at the final one, she might be recording a notable romantic disaster of the heart instead of telling of picking wild strawberries. But the "Spectre de la rose" is well done, and so is "Absence", with the repeated cries of "Reviens. reviens, ma bien aimee" exquisitely poised and ideally in the centre of the long-held high notes. If "Sur les lagunes" is less successful, this is partly because her steady pulse in the tone helps to render the emotion too generalized, and both here and in the final song there is the sense of the same feeling of warm regret doing duty for both—indeed, for rather too much throughout the cycle—with a consequent muting in poignancy.

Shéhérazade is beautifully done, with a well-judged orchestral accompaniment, and Behrens touches off nicely the somewhat superficial exoticisms of "Asie" and the languorous mood of "La flute enchantee" (which instrument is indeed enchantingly played). Ravel's score gives merely "chant", without specifying the type of voice: the song is actually as homosexual as anything in Cavafy (as Ravel would not have been slow to appreciate), though it hardly seems to lie well musically for a tenor. I wonder if this has ever been tried. Meanwhile, here is a sensitive and pleasing pair of performances—not one to dislodge the previous three, of which I prefer Janet Baker and Regine Crespin for different reasons, but well worth hearing. The recording is admirably lucid in Berlioz, and responds sensitively to the textures in Ravel's scented orchestration.

-- Gramophone [1/1985]
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Works on This Recording

1.
Shéhérazade by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Hildegard Behrens (Soprano)
Conductor:  Francis Travis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1903; France 
Date of Recording: 10/1983 
Venue:  Sofiensaal, Vienna 
Language: French 
2.
Les nuits d'été, Op. 7 by Hector Berlioz
Performer:  Hildegard Behrens (Soprano)
Conductor:  Francis Travis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1840-1841; France 
Date of Recording: 10/1983 
Venue:  Sofiensaal, Vienna 
Language: French 

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