RAVEL: Songs – Gerald Finley, baritone/ Julius Drake, piano – Hyperion CDA67728, 73:28 **** [Distr. by Harmonia mundi]:
Ravel’s songs are not mainstream; he is not one that comes to mind when thinking of songs from the French school. This disc presents us with a series of “folk” songs and his “art” songs. The former are deliciously airy and pointed while the latter revel in the best Ravelian tradition of line, meter, and texture. The chromaticism and harmonic intricacies are no different than what is found in his orchestral and other works, with the exception of an unusually enhanced melodic line that flashes with color and poetic gradation.
Usually his songs are found in spurts, acting as filler for other like-minded albums and recitals. There are comparatively few discs solely devoted to his music, so that makes this album the more welcome. Gerald Finley, whom I like a great deal but have been critical of in the past, seems to have found his métier her, 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.
Histoires naturelles : Le paon / Le grillon / Le cygne / Le martin-pecheur / La pintade. Ronsard a son ame.
Don Quichotte a Dulcinee : Chanson romanesque / Chanson epique / Chanson a boire. Un grand sommeil noir.
Les grands vents venus d’outremer.
Chants populaires : Chanson francaise / Chanson italienne / Chanson hebraique / Chanson ecossaise.
Noel des jouets.
Deux epigrammes de Clement Marot : D’Anne qui m’a jecta de la neige / D’Anne jouant de l’espinette.
Cinq melodies populaires grecques : Le reveil de la mariee / La-bas vers l’eglise / Quel galant m’est comparable? / Chanson des cueilleuses de lentisques / Tout gai!.
Deux melodies hebraiques : Kaddisch / L’enigme eternelle.
— Steven Ritter