Unlike, say, FaurÉ, Debussy, or Poulenc, orchestral master Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) isn't necessarily renowned for his mastery of the French art song—the mÉlodie.
Unlike, say, Fauré, Debussy, or Poulenc, orchestral master Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) isn't necessarily renowned for his mastery of the French art song—the mélodie. Yet his output in the genre fills up one CD with some astonishingly high-quality music, particularly as delivered here by the très Gallic team of baritone François Le Roux and pianist Pascal Rogé. Ravel set verse by some of the greatest French poets, including Verlaine and Mallarmé. And his inspirations didn't always stick to the voice-plus-piano model, as shown by his evocative arrangements of Trois Poèmes de Mallarmé with string quartet and winds and Trois Chansons Madécasses with cello and flute. So, there is rich variety here, although one constant is Le Roux's remarkably acute response to each text—something perhaps only a native French singer can fully realize. He limns Ravel's myriad moods, from atmospheric impressionism and lush, fin-de-siècle despair to infinitely shaded irony and even subtle comedy. The German way of Schubert et al. is hardly the last word in classical song, and this disc is the finest bit of proof. Distributed in the U.S. and U.K. by Harmonia Mundi.—BB