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Hyperion Records

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The Talisman, or The Swallow-hole in the Bois d'Amour, Pont-Aven (1888) by Paul Serusier (1864-1927)
Musée d'Orsay, Paris / Giraudon / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67728
Recording details: July 2008
All Saints' Church, East Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: June 2009
Total duration: 7 minutes 39 seconds

'Ravel's sense of colour and atmosphere is infallible … Finley's mellifluous, malleable baritone is an ideal match for this repertoire, with lines eloquently floated, nuances subtly voiced and character sensitively defined. This is a beguiling programme, beautifully performed' (Gramophone)

'It feels inadequate just to describe this enchanting new collection from Gerald Finley and Julius Drake as the best modern recital devoted to the wonderfully varied world of Ravel's songs … Julius Drake's warm-toned playing is, as ever, a perfect foil, all captured in Hyperion's wonderful sound. Riches indeed' (BBC Music Magazine)

'These are for the most part works of cool restraint, with passion hidden beneath a jewelled surface, and Finley's wonderfully flexible voice achieves maximum effect with minimal means … Drake's playing is a marvel of delicacy and almost gamelan-like sonorities' (The Daily Telegraph)

'It's a beautiful disc that startles in ways you don't always expect … the poetic restraint of Finley's singing and Drake's playing are spellbinding. The settings of Marot and Ronsard are ravishingly done, and the mixture of irony and sadness they bring to Histoires naturelles is exceptional' (The Guardian)

'These are songs that deserve to be better known … there are wonderful settings of prose poems by Jules Renard in which the peacock parades, a swan glides across glittering water and a kingfisher perches on a fisherman's rod. Drake relishes Ravel's iridescent piano parts, shifting imperceptibly from picture-painting to psychological comment … [Don Quichotte] magnificently performed by Finley and Drake, these grand mélodies … are a compelling miniature drama in three acts … Finley matches Drake song for song, the naïve knight, the ardent lover and, in 'Chanson épique', a grave and gravelly voice for this most principled of heroes … every track on this fine CD is proof that Ravel … was a composer who rose to a given musical occasion with consummate artistry, conviction and originality' (International Record Review)

'Gerald Finley seems to have found his métier here, singing with an enlightened sense of vocal agility and also fidelity to the textual nuances of Ravel's music. This is one of the best Ravel recitals I have heard in a long time (and they don't come often) so if this composer and his songs have any meaning for you at all, grab this disc quick. Julius Drake adds his normally sensitive partnership in music that is truly written for two' (Audiophile Audition, USA)

'Gerald Finley dares to tackle and all-Ravel program, and it only takes a few selections to recognize his mastery … the Key here is the Canadian's entirely natural approach, free of affectation or overinterpretation and supported by a voice of consistent beauty, warmth and flexibility … what emerges is not just a great display of vocal artistry, style, diction and characterization' (Opera News)

Cinq Mélodies populaires grecques
composer
1904; published 1906
author of text
from the Greek

Other recordings available for download
Michael Schade (tenor), Malcolm Martineau (piano)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Ravel was involved in arranging some Corsican folk songs in the 1890s, but nothing similar then came his way until February 1904 when a friend, the critic M D Calvocoressi, was asked to find someone to set six songs for a lecture entitled ‘The songs of oppressed peoples—Greeks and Armenians’. Ravel wrote the settings in thirty-six hours, but felt that four of them were too scanty. The remaining two, Quel galant m’est comparable? and Chanson des cueilleuses de lentisques, found their way into the Cinq mélodies populaires grecques performed as part of two lecture-recitals by Calvocoressi during the 1905–6 season. If the original accompaniments were too scanty, the ones we have are by no means over-succulent, with simple harmonies and many bare fifths. In Quel galant, Ravel curiously but effectively negates the Aeolian mode of the tune, based on A, by treating it tonally in G major. In Chanson des cueilleuses, on the other hand, the Lydian D sharps are a feature of both tune and accompaniment. It may be worth pointing out that ‘lentisques’ have nothing to do with lentils: Pistachia lentiscus, the lentisk tree, exudes mastic, a pale yellow gum-resin used for varnish, cement and liquor. For the girls engaged in gathering this substance, having sticky hands may well have made the ‘blond angel’ of their desire seem further off than ever.

The first song of the set, Chanson de la mariée, was correctly retitled by Ravel when he orchestrated it some thirty years later as Le réveil de la mariée, what might vulgarly be termed ‘The bride’s wake-up call’. The Phrygian modality of the original tune (G minor with A flat) suggested to Ravel not just the occasional A flat major chord, but a succession of five chords in which the frisson between A flat and G minor is intensified by chromatic harmonies. Là-bas, vers l’église, also on a Phrygian tune, celebrates villagers buried in the local cemetery, and the final words, ‘Du monde tous les plus braves!’, intimate that they were killed in battle. Here the spread chords evoke bells with wonderful economy. The final song, Tout gai!, is in a tonal A flat major with not an accidental in sight, while the slight variations in the second verse are just enough to preclude predictability.

from notes by Roger Nichols © 2009


Other albums featuring this work
'Of ladies and love' (CDA67315)
Of ladies and love
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