Christoph Eschenbach

Ravel: Orchestral Versions of Gaspard de la nuit, Le tombeau de Couperin, Menuet antique, Pavane pour une infante déf

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A recording of Ravel's Gaspard de la nuit orchestrated? Non! Oui! Here's why: Ondine, the Finnish label founded in 1985, celebrated its twentieth anniversary by recording Christoph Eschenbach conducting the Orchestre de Paris in a 1990 orchestration of Ravel's virtuoso piano masterpiece Gaspard de la nuit by Marius Constant, the opening movement of which is entitled Ondine. Here's why not: Constant's orchestration is good as far as it goes, but Constant goes only as far and that's no further than the limits of his imagination, no further than an at best third-rate, late-nineteenth century French Romantic like Chausson, Dukas, or Lalo. And here's why not: Ravel's Gaspard de la nuit is fully and completely fulfilled as a piece for piano, indeed, it is a quintessential pianist in inspiration and execution and limiting it to an orchestra is about as pointless as trying to stuff infinity into a sack.

Aside from that, however, the rest of the disc is quite good. Eschenbach and the Orchestre de Paris perform Ravel's own orchestrations of Le tombeau de Couperin, Menuet antique, Alborado del gracioso, and especially Pavane pour une infante defunte are performed with exquisite delicacy and tremendous intensity. Also, Carole Bouquet's reading of Bertrand's poems of before the movements of Gaspard is a delightful treat and certainly better than the orchestrations that follow. Ondine's sound is clean and bracing, but oddly not quite as clear as some of its earlier releases.

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