RAVEL: Rapsodie Espagnole / La Valse / Daphnis et Chloe (Kenneth Jean/ Martin Sauer/ Slovak Radio Symphony Chorus/ Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra) (Naxos: 8.550424)
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Maurice Ravel (1875 - 1937)
Pavane pour une infante defunte
Daphnis et Chloe (Suite No.2)
The French composer Maurice Ravel inherited from his mother, ofBasque origin, a strong interest in Spain, tempered by the precise attention to detailinherited from his father, a Swiss-born engineer. Spanish influence appeared in the firstof his two operas, L'heure espagnole, in thepiano piece, published in 1905 as part of Miroirs, Alborada del gracioso, in the famousHabanera and indeed in the very choice of title for the enormously popular Pavane pour une infante defunte. Later in life theballet tour de force Bolero provided an opportunity for virtuosity of orchestration, witha Spanish flavour, and one of his last compositions was the setting of three Don Quixotesongs for a film in which the Russian singer Shalyapin was to star.
The Rapsodie espagnole
was completed in 1908 and consists of four movements, the evocative Prelude ?á la nuit, Malaguena, Habanera, based on anearlier work for piano, and Feria. This wasRavel's first major orchestral work, a demonstration of his originality and of his giftsas an orchestrator. The music moves from the stillness of night to two characteristicSpanish dances and a final Spanish fiesta.
The Pavane pour une infantedefunte was originally a piano piece, written in 1899. Its title, chosen, itseems, after the piece had been written, couples a Spanish element with a nostalgia forthe past very typical of the turn of the century. Ravel orchestrated the piece in 1910,when it was used for a ballet.
The po?¿me choreographique LaValse was written in response to a commission from Sergey Dyagilev, whorejected the work. Completed in1920, it was eventually used in the theatre in 1929 by IdaRubinstein's company, with choreography by Nijinsky's sister and designs by Benois. Comingas it does after the final dissolution of the Habsburg Empire, La Valse seems again tosuggest a vanished world, the mysterious evocation of an epoch that was gone, a masque inthe imagination of an Edgar Allan Poe.
The symphonie choreographique Daphnis et Chloe is based on the Hellenistic novelby Longus, a Greco-Roman writer about whom nothing is known. His pastoral romance, set onthe island of Lesbos, deals with the love, forced parting and final happiness of theshepherd Daphnis and the shepherdess Chloe, abducted by pirates, but eventually unitedagain with Daphnis, their union a subject of general rejoicing, under the inspiration ofthe shepherd god Pan. Ravel drew two orchestral suites from the original score, the secondof them in 1912, the year in which Dyagilev's Ballets russes performed the work at theTheatre du Chatelet in Paris, with designs by Bakst, choreography by Fokin and the twotitle roles danced by Karsavina and Nijinsky. The scandal surrounding the latter'sperformance in his ballet using Debussy's pastoral L'apres-midid'un faune overshadowed Ravel's ballet, which lacked the necessary ingredientsof a succes de scandale, while celebrating again a long-vanished world, evoked in vividand moving orchestral colours, subtly enhanced by the use of an added chorus.
Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava)
The Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava), the oldestsymphonic ensemble in Slovakia, was founded in 1929. The orchestra's first conductor wasFrantiek Dyk and over the past sixty years it has worked under the batons of severalprominent Czech and Slovak conductors.
The orchestra has made many recordings for NAXOS ranging fromthe ballet music of Tchaikovsky to more modern works by composers such as Copland, Britten& Prokofiev. For Marco Polo the orchestra has recorded works by Glazunov, Gliere,Rubinstein and other post-romantic composers.
Associate Conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and MusicDirector of the Florida Symphony Orchestra, Kenneth Jean is a young conductor making hispresence known both nationally and internationally. Born in New York City, he grew up inHong Kong and returned to the United States in 1967 to live in San Francisco. After violinstudies at San Francisco State University, he entered the Juilliard School at the age of19 and was accepted into the conducting class of Jean Morel. The following year, he madehis Carnegie Hall debut with the Youth Symphony Orchestra of New York and was immediatelyengaged as the orchestra's Music Director.
From 1979 until 1985 Kenneth Jean served as Resident Conductorof the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Previously, he was the Conducting Assistant of theCleveland Orchestra for two seasons.
He has recorded works by Mendelssohn. Tchaikovsky, Beethoven,Falla, Albeniz and Ravel for Naxos, and Chinese contemporary works for HK.