Ravel: Gaspard De La Nuit, Etc / Eschenbach, Barto, Et Al

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This CD is something of a birthday present of Ondine to itself—one that’s well deserved, I think. I hadn’t come across Marius Constant’s orchestration of Gaspard de la nuit, undertaken in 1990, before this recording. André Thomas’s booklet notes explain that Constant (1925–2004) was “tormented by a youthful obsession” when he sat down to the task. “I further increased the challenge to myself by deliberately choosing a Ravel-like instrumentation (the orchestra of La valse, in fact). However, I used the orchestra in new combinations, attempting to broaden its range of sonorities (thus breaking in passing certain persistent taboos in orchestration).” Constant succeeded brilliantly, Christoph Eschenbach obviously taking a physical delight—as I did and you can—in the virtuoso washes of sound that fly through the orchestra. The three movements of Gaspard are prefaced by the Aloysius Betrand poems that inspired Ravel’s piano originals, read in sexy-schoolmistress French by Carole Bouquet. Of the four other Ravel orchestral works, it’s the Alborado del gracioso that really cooks: Eschenbach draws a swaggeringly exciting account from his Paris players, who are duly more decorous in Le tombeau de Couperin, the rarely heard Menuet antique, and the ubiquitous Pavane. Small wonder that the audience erupts at the end of the Alborado—but this is the first signal of their presence; you wouldn’t know until now that these are live recordings. Ondine presents a “bonus track”—Tzimon Barto playing “Ondine,” the first movement of Gaspard, in its original piano incarnation.

For Constant’s extraordinarily imaginative orchestral realization of Gaspard alone, this disc is worth the outlay (it’s in demonstration sound, too). But there’s a feel-good factor, too: everyone involved—the orchestra, the artists, the publishers, and Ondine, have forsworn a portion of their earnings from the disc in favor of the Musée Maurice Ravel, in his house in Monfort l’Amaury, west of Paris, “to aid in the restoration and maintenance of the museum.”

Martin Anderson, FANFARE

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: ODE 1051-2

  • UPC: 761195105122

  • Label: Ondine

  • Composer: Maurice Ravel

  • Conductor: Christoph Eschenbach

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Paris Orchestra

  • Performer: Carole Bouquet, Tzimon Barto