All of the performers on this release are associated somehow with the Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio, and the album has been released by the conservatory itself on its own label. Perhaps because it's something of a labor of love for harpist Yolanda Kondonassis, the album far surpasses the common run of such academic releases. The program can be heard equally well in two different ways: as the set of "intimate masterpieces" the title promises, and as the examination of Ravel's relationship to the various radical and conservative schools of French music that prevailed during the early part of his career, as outlined in the extensive booklet notes. The Cinq mélodies populaires grecques (Five Greek Popular Songs) and Chansons madécasses (Songs of Madagascar) would have been anathema to the likes of Vincent d'Indy, and it is interesting to hear Ravel's flirtations with global music traditions in this light. The String Quartet emerges here as Ravel's attempt to write a work on traditional forms while still infusing it with his own distinct harmonic flavor. The music works equally well with no consideration of these factors involved; it is a lovely set of contrasting chamber pieces that sets an entrancing note with the opening Introduction et Allegro for harp, flute, clarinet, and string quartet. Bravo to all involved for an unusual and logical program, superbly executed.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|String Quartet in F major|
|Cinq Mélodies Populaires Grecques|