RAVEL: Bolero / Daphnis et Chloe / Ma Mere L'oye (Kenneth Jean/ Martin Sauer/ Slovak Philharmonic Chorus/ Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra) (Naxos: 8.550173)
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Maurice Ravel (1875 - 1937)
Daphnis et Chloe (Suite No.1)
Valses nobles et sentimentales
Ma m?¿re l'oye
Maurice Ravel, in common with other greatcomposers, uses a musical language that is instantly recognisable, whetherin the sparer textures of music that recalls classical and earlier traditions,in his innovative writing for the piano or his colourful use of the modernorchestra. He was born in Ciboure in the Basses Pyrenees in 1875, the son of anengineer of Swiss ancestry and a mother who came from the Basque country. Fromhis father he acquired an interest in things mechanical and a certainmeticulous precision in his music and in his personal habits, while from hismother he inherited an affinity with Spain and a familiarity with the languageof that country, an element reflected in some of his compositions.
Ravel entered the Paris Conservatoire in1889, but was to fail to win there the distinction and the necessary prizesthat his abilities deserved. He withdrew in 1895 but returned in 1897 to studycomposition with Gabriel Faure, a sympathetic teacher, who had succeededMassenet at the Conservatoire the year before, after the death of hisimplacable opponent Ambroise Thomas.
By the early years of the present centuryRavel had begun to earn a reputation for himself as a composer, in spite of thehostility of certain critics. He was to fail, however, to win the ImportantPrix de Rome, the rejection of his final entry in 1905 causing a public scandalthat led to the resignation of the director of the Conservatoire, who wassucceeded by Faure. Instead he continued to gain ground against his opponentsin the musical and critical establishment, and in 1909 was commissioned by theRussian impresario Sergey Dyagilev to write the score for the ballet Daphniset Chloe, staged in 1912.
During the war years Ravel served as atransport driver, his lack of weight excluding him from the more active form ofmilitary service he would have preferred. Illness and the death of his motherin 1916 both diminished his activity as a composer, but by 1920 he hadcompleted, at the prompting of Dyagilev, the choreographic poem La Valse andhad started work on the operatic collaboration with Colette that resulted inthe delightful L'enfant et les sortileges, in which elements of Ravel'svarious interests combine.
The death of Debussy in 1918, followedsix years later by the death of his teacher Faure, left Ravel as the leadingFrench composer in the eyes of his contemporaries. There were to be variouscommissions and the establishment of an international reputation that broughthim honour abroad and the offer of the Legion d'honneur at home, a distinctionhe rejected. His career was tragically shortened by the increasinglydebilitating effects of what was later diagnosed as Pick's disease. He died in1937 after an unsuccessful brain operation.
Ma m?¿re l'oye
was originally written as a suite of Mother Goose nursery tales for piano duetto entertain the children of Ravel's friend Cipa Godebskl. It was orchestratedand extended as a ballet score in 1911, the year after its composition. Thesuite opens with Sleeping Beauty, followed by Hop-o'-my-thumb, with his trailof breadcrumbs leading through the forest. Laideronette is Empress of tinyoriental insect-musicians. Thereafter Beauty converses with the Beast, and thework ends in a fairy garden.
The ballet Daphnis et Chloe waseventually completed in 1912 and is described as a choreographic symphony. Thestory of the work is taken from the Hellenistic writer Longus and concerns theabduction of the shepherdess Chloe by pirates and her eventual rescue by herlover Daphnis. The first of the two suites derived from the complete balletopens with a Nocturne, in which nymphs dance after the defeat in dance of therival of Daphnis. The Interlude precedes the appearance of a band of pirates,whose war-like dance concludes the suite.
The Valses nobles et sentimentales
were originally written for piano and orchestrated in 1912 as a ballet forNatalia Trouhanova. The eight short dances, modelled on the example ofSchubert, were, for the purposes of ballet, given the title Adelaide or Lelangage des fleurs, with a story to match, and evoke a nostalgic feelingfor a world that was passing, even in their apparently triumphant bitter-sweetconclusion.
Ravel wrote the orchestral tour de forceBolero in 1928 for the dancer Ida Rubinstein, describing it on one occasion asan orchestrated crescendo and on another as "une blague" and yetagain as "vide de musique". It is based on the insistent drum rhythmof an invented Spanish dance and won immediate popularity.
Czechoslovak Radio Symphony Orchestra(Bratislava)
The Czechoslovak Radio Symphony Orchestra(Bratislava), the oldest symphonic ensemble in Slovakia, was founded in 1929 atthe instance of Milos Ruppeldt and Oskar Nedbal, prominent personalities in thesphere of music. Ondrej Lenard was appointed its conductor in 1970 and in 1977its conductor-in-chief. The orchestra has given successful concerts both athome and abroad, in West and East Germany, Russia, Bulgaria, Denmark, France,Spain, Italy, and Great Britain.
Associate Conductor of the ChicagoSymphony Orchestra and Music Director of the Florida Symphony Orchestra,Kenneth Jean is a young conductor making his presence known both nationally andinternationally. Born in New York City, he grew up in Hong Kong and returned tothe United States in 1967 to live in San Francisco. After violin studies at SanFranciso State University, he entered the Juilliard School at the age of 19 andwas accepted into the conducting class of Jean Morel. The following year, hemade his Carnegie Hall debut with the Youth Symphony Orchestra of New York andwas immediately engaged as the orchestra's Music Director.
Kenneth Jean made his European debut in1980 at the International Festival of Youth Orchestras in Aberdeen, Scotlandand has since returned regularly. Other orchestras he has conducted Include theSt. Louis Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Orchestraof the Swiss Radio, Park Theatre Orchestra of Stockholm, the Belgrade Stringsand the South West German Radio Orchestra of Baden-Baden at the DonaueschingenFestival of Contemporary Music. He was awarded the 1983-84 Leopold StokowskiConducting Award by the American Symphony Orchestra. He has conducted thatorchestra on various occasions, including a subscription concert in CarnegieHall.
From 1979 until 1985 Kenneth Jean servedas Resident Conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Previously, he was theConducting Assistant of the Cleveland Orchestra for two seasons.
He has recorded works by Mendelssohn,Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Falla, Albniz and Ravel for Naxos, and Chinesecontemporary works for HK.