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Ravel: Chansons Madecasses, Etc / The Nash Ensemble, Walker

Release Date: 08/13/2010 
Label:  Virgin Classics   Catalog #: 45016   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Marcia CrayfordChristopher Van KampenIan BrownAngela Malsbury,   ... 
Conductor:  Lionel Friend
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Nash Ensemble
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 13 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

The Nash Ensemble have recorded all four of these works before, the purely instrumental ones on CD with the same artists (CRD), the vocal ones on LP with a different personnel and with Felicity Palmer as the singer (Argo). CH found their earlier version of the Trio somewhat superficial and lacking in expressiveness; but that reproach cannot be made against the present performance, in whose first movement the players show an immense gain in subtlety and depth of involvement. I cannot, however, understand CH's complaint that in the 1986 recording he found the piano "too recessed", when it so massively overweighted the lively Pantoum movement: here this is finely balanced, with needle-sharp staccatos from the piano (a 'bravo' to Ian Read more Brown!). The greater "breadth and tragic glow" which the Passacaille was felt to lack are present in this more intense reading; and the finale emerges with far greater clarity and, initially, delicacy—it was a bit muddy before—and clean climaxes, however huge. I rate this a most impressive performance.

From the luscious harmonies and romantic atmosphere of the Trio to the more cerebral, starkly 'stripped down' Duo Sonata eight years later (over which Ravel agonized for two years) is as big a stylistic leap as can be imagined, but Marcia Crayford and Christopher van Kampen haves good understanding of the Sonata's uncompromising idiom, and here give it an even greater degree of commitment than before: Ravel would have approved of their bite and meticulous observance of his markings in the fantastic scherzo, the contrast they provide in an expressive third movement, and the mordant humour they bring to the grotesqueries of the finale.

If I am slightly less enthusiastic about the other works here, it is absolutely no reflection on Sarah Walker's seductive voice, sensitive control of nuance and intelligent use of words, nor of the Nash players' admirable contribution: the Mallarme songs are full of delicate half-lights, the Madagascan aptly veer between exotic eroticism and fierce outrage. However, the vocal line, which carries the words on which the atmosphere of the music depends, must surely stand out a little from the texture—in fact, Ravel himself said of the Madagascan songs that they were "a kind of quartet in which the voice has the principal instrumental part"—and here it is, for the most part, too discreetly placed in respect to the very clear instrumental detail. Considerable artistry not quite shown to its best advantage.

-- Gramophone [6/1994]
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Works on This Recording

Sonata for Violin and Cello by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Marcia Crayford (Violin), Christopher Van Kampen (Cello)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Nash Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1920-1922; France 
Date of Recording: 11/1990 
Venue:  Henry Wood Hall, London 
Length: 19 Minutes 33 Secs. 
Poèmes (3) de Stéphane Mallarmé by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Ian Brown (Piano), Angela Malsbury (Bass Clarinet), Angela Malsbury (Clarinet),
Michael Collins (Clarinet), Leonore Smith (Flute), Philippa Davies (Piccolo),
Philippa Davies (Flute), Sarah Walker (Soprano), Roger Chase (Viola),
Marcia Crayford (Violin), Elizabeth Layton (Violin), Christopher Van Kampen (Cello)
Conductor:  Lionel Friend
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Nash Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1913; France 
Date of Recording: 11/1990 
Venue:  Blackheath Concert Halls, London 
Length: 12 Minutes 16 Secs. 
Language: French 
Chansons madécasses by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Christopher Van Kampen (Cello), Ian Brown (Piano), Sarah Walker (Soprano),
Philippa Davies (Flute)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Nash Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1925-1926; France 
Date of Recording: 11/1990 
Venue:  Blackheath Concert Halls, London 
Length: 14 Minutes 41 Secs. 
Language: French 
Trio for Piano, Violin and Cello in A minor by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Christopher Van Kampen (Cello), Marcia Crayford (Violin), Ian Brown (Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Nash Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1914; France 
Date of Recording: 11/1990 
Venue:  Henry Wood Hall, London 
Length: 27 Minutes 9 Secs. 

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