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Ravel: L'enfant Et Les Sortilèges / Maag, Rai Rome Orchestra


Release Date: 11/30/2004 
Label:  Arts Music   Catalog #: 43039   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Geneviève MacauxColette HerzogMady MespléDerrik Olsen,   ... 
Conductor:  Peter Maag
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Italian Radio Symphony Orchestra RomeItalian Radio Chorus Rome
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 1 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Booklet includes a libretto in French only with a synopsis of the plot in English.

Ravel wrote two operas. This, the second, is cousin to both Ma mère l’oye and the irreverent Piano Concerto in G at various times. It isn’t an easy work to perform well, as you might guess; and since both fantastical and satirical operas are out of fashion, it doesn’t command a large audience, either. More is the pity, because L’enfant et les sortilèges remains one of the best one act operas around. The performance was recorded live in concert by RAI, Italian Radio, on March 16, 1963. RAI’s Rome studio was the venue, one of three, along with Turin and Milan, where it frequently played host to a variety of guest musicians and
Read more pick-up orchestras. As is common in this work, several performers took multiple roles here within their voice ranges. Derrick Olsen is much in character as Le fauteuil and L’arbre (the latter’s cry, “Ma blessure,” musical but pained enough to sound real). He’s not as dark as some basses that have played these parts; Robert Lloyd with Previn/LSO (currently DG 2GH 457589) comes to mind. Nor does he have the seemingly infinite nuance of Andre Vessieres in the classic Bour/ORTF release (Testament SBT 1044) from 1947. But Olsen’s good enough to make me forget the others while singing, and that’s saying quite a lot.

Pierre Mollet is more raw than when he performed his roles under Ansermet’s direction, while Colette Herzog is intermittently effective, but shrill and occasionally suspect in intonation. (She was better in a series of smaller parts with Maazel/ORTF, currently DG on 2GOR 449769.) By contrast, Michel Sénéchal is delightful, especially as La théière with his twee English (“How’s your mug?”) He recorded the same roles for Maazel/ORTF as well, but this performance is more spirited and less calculated.

Geneviève Macaux sounds out of sorts as La mère and La tasse chinoise, carefully clipping lower notes as a beat begins to sound, singing more freely as the voice lifts. She sounds considerably more in command of her resources later in the work as La libellule, where Herzog and Mesplé are suitably impressive. Mady Mesplé is arguably the best thing here, apart from Maag and the less spectacular but equally fine efforts of Sénéchal. Her entrance piece as Le feu is fearless in her coloratura and divisions, sporting a good trill. The fast catch of her voice lends her impersonation of Le princesse an unearthly quality that contrasts well with Luchini’s tone.

The latter sings well, but offers a drab, featureless interpretation. Pamela Helen Stephen (in Previn’s recording) and Nadine Sautereau (Ernest Bour) are better, in my opinion. The first sounds refreshing like a real child, with a child’s spontaneous emotional reactions and hairpin changes of mood; but the latter sounds like a real French child.

Maag is first-rate. This performance is more relaxed than most I’ve heard, though Maag never makes the mistake of sentimentalizing the music. He shows rare sensitivity to the distinct moods and colors of each section in the work, moving without hesitation from the soft wonder of the shepherds and shepherdesses in procession, to the intimate lament of the Princess, the ending of her tale lost in the book that the Child tore; to the harsh didacticism of the Arithmetician (whose science, as might be expected from Ravel, is more impenetrable and unnatural than magic), and the voluptuous “Cat Duet.” After a very rough start from the woodwinds, he evokes an astonishing sensitivity from the RAI musicians, who have never been known for their discipline or ensemble.

The CD concludes with the familiar five-movement suite from Ma mère l’oye; same orchestra, but no date of recording is given. Here, Maag seems rushed and inflexible, though he again evokes some above average playing from his orchestra. While an encore is clearly required for an otherwise short disc, this is not an especially distinguished one. Voices are to the front, as was customary with RAI’s recordings at the time. The liner notes mention that the final part of the original stereo version was partially missing, though no reason is given why. A mono copy was discovered, apparently made at the same time and place—in itself, presenting yet another mystery that the notes neglect to explain. At 1:49 the switchover takes place. Nothing is missed, but a brief electronic thump is heard as the acoustical profile shifts. Otherwise, the sound is surprisingly clean and resonant, given the laissez faire engineering and playing that sometimes prevailed in RAI’s contemporary efforts. A French libretto is provided with English synopsis, but no translation.

As you might gather by now, this version of L’enfant et les sortilèges isn’t, in my opinion, one of the best available. I frankly prefer Bour’s more idiomatic cast, even though one or two of the voices can’t compare to similar casts on Previn or Maazel. But if you’re a fan of one of the most impressive and neglected conductors of recent times, go for Maag. This is a fine example of his inspiring work, and that of Mesplé and Sénéchal.

Barry Brenesal, FANFARE
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Works on This Recording

1.
L'enfant et les sortilèges by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Geneviève Macaux (Mezzo Soprano), Colette Herzog (Soprano), Mady Mesplé (Soprano),
Derrik Olsen (Bass), Pierre Mollet (Baritone), Michel Sénéchal (Tenor),
Fernanda Cadoni (Mezzo Soprano), Paola Scanabucci (Soprano)
Conductor:  Peter Maag
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Italian Radio Symphony Orchestra Rome,  Italian Radio Chorus Rome
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1920-1925; France 
Date of Recording: 03/16/1963 
Venue:  Live  Rome, Italy 
Length: 45 Minutes 10 Secs. 
2.
Ma mère l'oye: Pavane de la belle au bois dormant by Maurice Ravel
Conductor:  Peter Maag
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Italian Radio Symphony Orchestra Rome,  Italian Radio Chorus Rome
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1908-1910; France 
Date of Recording: 03/16/1963 
Venue:  Live  Rome, Italy 
Length: 1 Minutes 34 Secs. 
3.
Ma mère l'oye: Petit Poucet by Maurice Ravel
Conductor:  Peter Maag
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Italian Radio Symphony Orchestra Rome,  Italian Radio Chorus Rome
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1908-1910; France 
Date of Recording: 03/16/1963 
Venue:  Live  Rome, Italy 
Length: 2 Minutes 53 Secs. 
4.
Ma mère l'oye: Laideronnette, impératrice des pagodes by Maurice Ravel
Conductor:  Peter Maag
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Italian Radio Symphony Orchestra Rome,  Italian Radio Chorus Rome
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1908-1910; France 
Date of Recording: 03/16/1963 
Venue:  Live  Rome, Italy 
Length: 3 Minutes 19 Secs. 
5.
Ma mère l'oye: Les entretiens de la belle et de la bête by Maurice Ravel
Conductor:  Peter Maag
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Italian Radio Symphony Orchestra Rome,  Italian Radio Chorus Rome
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1908-1910; France 
Date of Recording: 03/16/1963 
Venue:  Live  Rome, Italy 
Length: 3 Minutes 43 Secs. 
6.
Ma mère l'oye: Le jardin féerique by Maurice Ravel
Conductor:  Peter Maag
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Italian Radio Symphony Orchestra Rome,  Italian Radio Chorus Rome
Period: 20th Century 
Written: France 
Date of Recording: 03/16/1963 
Venue:  Live  Rome, Italy 
Length: 3 Minutes 20 Secs. 

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