11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
As morality plays go, this must be one of the very best. The libretto is by none other than Mme Colette, and the story concerns the fairy-tale adventures of a spoiled but basically good-hearted child and how he learns the worth of what he finds around him. He learns, for instance, not to pin the living beauty of a dragonfly to the wall just as a trophy. He learns not to inflict casual damage on a tree. He learns, even, not to be destructive and wasteful of the simple everyday environment of his home, and he learns the value of learning itself. There is no heavy moralising in this story, no sanctimoniousness and no punishment, and even the little animals, which start fighting among themselves under the influence of his petulance, stop fighting when his own comportment changes for the better - this is a lovely touch.
Ravel was no musical revolutionary, but he was even less of a traditionalist. His search was always for freshness (rather than novelty as such) in musical ideas, and he had no interest in opera as that was practised by Meyerbeer, Wagner and Gounod. This beautiful and touching little tale brings out the best and most characteristic in him. The influence of American music is there as usual, but I don't hear much or any Spanish or Basque idiom this time. The orchestral scoring has all his typical lightness and vividness, the little harlequinade of characters has variety and wit in the music to correspond with the text, and it is all just the right length for what it is, fitting comfortably and conveniently on to a single cd.
The recording was originally done in 1960 or 1961, and it won a Gramophone prize in the remastered category in 1989. In 2006 I find that it still sounds well, although not quite the kind of marvel of sound-engineering that we have got used to these days. When I wondered briefly whether I could really give it 5 stars for sound, I reflected that to make any complaint under the circumstances would be to behave rather like the child in his unreconstructed days, so 5 stars it is. The performance is really very good indeed, with the right prominence for the solo voices as well. The singers capture the humour and tenderness of this little masterpiece, and their work is excellent technically - I was particularly thrilled by a really superb long trill on 'Aa!...' from Sylvaine Gilma in one of her roles as the Nightingale. The translation is adequate, but the liner-note and the synopsis are really very good, and what a pleasure it is to be able to say that for a change.
The disc seems to be out of production, so if it appeals to you I should get hold of an available copy without delay. I hope you like it, because if you don't the teapot, the tree, the bat, the owl, the grandfather clock, the dragonfly, the frog and the squirrel will be sad again, and old Mr Arithmetic himself may start getting his sums wrong.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 16 October 2012
This recording is a wonderful achievement, and I know of no better performance in the catalogue. Ansermet and Ernest Bour are also idiomatic and good in their ways, but this really has it all. Beautifully sung and conducted with charm, humour and real gallic atmosphere. And good idiomatic French, which is clear and intelligible - all this really counts with a libretto as wonderful as this.
If you have a chance, DON'T buy this re-mastered version - get the original 2 CD recording coupled with L'Heure Espagnole and RImsky Korsakov. This re-master got a prize - haha - but a regular succession of trashy movies get Oscars so what's new. Pigs were flying that day.....