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 Search Beat > Arts > Music > Styles > Classical Music > Featured Composer > Maurice Ravel


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Along with Debussy, Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) defines French impressionism in music, although he is more classical, more ambiguous, and more beguiling than his older compatriot. His orchestration is colorful and invariably surprising; he is witty and innovative without ever being academic, and his music is always a joy to hear.
recommended recordings
  Ravel: Bolero, etc; Debussy: Images / Munch, Boston Symphony

Composer: Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy
Conductor: Charles Munch
Ensemble: Boston Symphony Orchestra
Bmg/Rca Victor - #61956 / March 15, 1994

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Charles Munch was the opposite of the "intellectual" school of French conductors, as typified today by Pierre Boulez. He was a completely spontaneous artist, which is what made him the great Berlioz conductor of our time, and literally anything could happen when he got up onto the podium. It follows then, that his Ravel is not going to be the sort of hyper-precise, calculated sort of interpretation that many fans of the composer expect, but it will be exciting as hell. These three pieces are shrewdly chosen; they are the composer's most extrovert works, and Munch pulls out all of the stops in his performances of them. A classic recording, and a great memento of a unique artist. --David Hurwitz

Ravel: Daphnis et Chloe Complete / Munch, Boston Symphony
Composer: Maurice Ravel
Conductor: Charles Munch
Ensemble: Boston Symphony Orchestra
Bmg/Rca Victor - #61846 / August 10, 1993

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Ravel's magnificent "choreographic symphony" was the musical preserve of two great French conductors, Pierre Monteux and Charles Munch. Munch recorded the work twice for RCA, and this is the earlier of his two versions. Neither is better than the other. To the composer's customary brilliance of sound, Munch added an almost physical urgency and impact. Listening to this colorful performance, you can really hear stuff happening from one moment to the next. The actual plot is irrelevant...Read more


Great Pianists of the 20th Century - Martha Argerich - Gaspard de la nuit
Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach, Franz Liszt, et al.
Conductor: Claudio Abbado, Riccardo Chailly
Performer: Martha Argerich
Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, et al.
Uni/Philips - #456700 / October 20, 1998

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An encounter with the searing artistry of Argentinean pianist Martha Argerich, as her fiercely loyal following attests, can resemble a conversion experience. Like her close friend Nelson Freire, Argerich takes a natural-sounding, unstudied virtuosity merely as her starting point, so that the most fearsome technical challenges emerge as thrillingly musical ones, as well.

In Argerich's landmark account of the Ravel triptych Gaspard de la Nuit, for example, you're almost tempted to forget what an...Read more


Ravel: Piano Concerto; Rachmaninoff / Michelangeli, et al
Composer: Maurice Ravel, Sergei Rachmaninov
Conductor: Ettore Gracis
Performer: Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli
Ensemble: Philharmonia Orchestra
Emd/Emi Classics - #67258 / March 14, 2000

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This CD is an all-time classic. Michelangeli had almost unlimited technique, and here he puts it to good use. The Rach 4 has probably never been equalled, while the Ravel is one of a few great recordings (Argerich is another).

Unfortunately, once you start noticing how terrible and out of time the triangle is (it's especially prominent in the Ravel) you just want to travel back through time and strangle the percussionist.


Ravel: L'Enfant et les Sortilèges / Previn, London SO
Composer: Maurice Ravel
Conductor: André Previn
Performer: Elizabeth Futral, Juanita Lascarro, et al.
Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra, New London Children's Choir
Uni/Deutsche Grammophon - #457589 / July 20, 1999

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Don't be fooled by this disc's cartoonish cover. With its libretto by Colette and music by Ravel at his witty, jazzy peak,L'Enfant et les Sortilèges is hardly kiddie stuff, even if it is about a wicked child who has an epiphany when the inanimate objects he abuses begin talking back. It's an ideal CD opera, since it demands a fantastical staging that's best left to the imagination, and this new recording is among the best available. Surely, it's sassier, broader, and funnier than Previn's...Read more


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