“Childhood plays a part in almost every composer’s output. For Maurice Ravel, it emerged as two works both imbued in the world of fantasy. Almost 15 years separate the two works on this disc, but their sonic worlds seem, in many ways, much more distant.
Ma mère l’Oye started as five pieces for piano and four hands. Written for two young sisters, they delved into short fairy tales inspired by popular lore familiar to all children. Later, Ravel would not only orchestrate these pieces, but also add supplemental music to create a full ballet. Even pianists feel that the orchestral version is superior simply because the color palette is much expanded. I enjoy performing both versions and would not trade either.
With his second opera, L’Enfant et les sortilèges, Ravel returned to the world of children. This time his inspiration is a short story by Colette in which a spoiled child is whisked away to the imaginary land of the animals and items that he has injured. It contains some of the most inspired music Ravel would ever write. When I used to teach orchestration, this score served as one of the textbooks, as almost everything one needs to know is contained in the 45-minute work. There are many great moments in this masterpiece, but to me, the very end, where the animals forgive the young child, who then calls out to his mother, is among the most moving in all of music.”
Ravel’s opera L’Enfant et les sortilèges captures an imaginative child’s world in which the creatures and objects around him come to life. Wittily portrayed in Colette’s inventive libretto and by Ravel’s meticulous orchestration, furniture, crockery and animals alike are at first provoked by the child’s appalling behaviour, finally helping him after he bandages the squirrel’s paw he had previously pricked with his pen. The unforgettably enchanting Mother Goose translates well-known fairytales into music, including the gently melodic Sleeping Beauty’sPavane, her conversation with the gruffest of beasts, and a final blessing in The Fairy Garden.
Listen to Raymond Bisha's podcast A fascination with sound:
Ravel's spellbinding works for the stage
Listen to an extract from L’Enfant et les sortilèges:
Deux robinets coulent dans un reservoir!
About the Artists
Internationally acclaimed conductor Leonard Slatkin is music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) and the Orchestre National de Lyon (ONL). He also maintains a rigorous schedule of guest conducting throughout the world and is active as a composer, author and educator. Slatkin’s more than 100 recordings have garnered seven Grammy® awards and 64 nominations. His recent Naxos recordings include works by Saint-Saëns, Ravel and Berlioz (with the ONL) and music by Copland, Rachmaninov, Borzova, McTee and John Williams (with the DSO).
Offspring of the Société des Grands Concerts de Lyon, founded in 1905, the Orchestre National de Lyon (ONL) became a permanent orchestra of 102 musicians in 1969, with Louis Frémaux as its first musical director (1969–1971). From then on the orchestra was run and supported financially by the city of Lyon, which in 1975 provided it with a concert hall, the Lyon Auditorium. Since the Opéra de Lyon Orchestra was founded in 1983, the ONL has devoted itself to symphonic repertoire.
Other recordings featuring Leonard Slatkin and the Orchestre National de Lyon
“Leonard Slatkin draws a vivid sound from the Lyon players, with a wide range of dynamics and colours…No one could do more for the early Scheherezade overture, where Ravel’s interest in orchestral timbres is paramount…Bolero too comes off well.” – BBC Music Magazine ★★★★★
“Leonard Slatkin, the orchestra’s music director since 2011, gives a performance that’s full of sweep and sparkling color. … Slatkin and the orchestra play every note with a welcome degree of expression.”
– American Record Guide
“The two overtures are excellently played, both benefiting from Slatkin’s familiar skill at clarifying orchestral textures.” – Gramophone
Recordings featuring Leonard Slatkin and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra
8.559758 NBD0037 Aaron COPLAND
Rodeo / Dance Panels
El salon Mexico / Danzon cubano
“…this is a great CD featuring top recommendations for Rodeo and El Salón México and a wonderful rarity in the shape of Dance Panels that I urge everyone to hear. The Detroit Orchestra, in superb form for their inspirational conductor, are captured in spectacular and beautiful sound.” – MusicWeb International