The award-winning partnership of Gerald Finley and Julius Drake continue their musical explorations with this beautiful and thought-provoking disc. Gerald Finley’s lustrous tones, extraordinary gift for characterisation, and direct, unaffected utterance make him an ideal and revelatory performer of Ravel’s songs.
These works, somewhat under-appreciated in the composer’s oeuvre, demonstrate the endless variety and vast emotional scope of Ravel’s musical sphere. Charming folk-song settings contrast with the almost surrealist world of Histoires naturelles, which caused outrage at its first performance. Yet this cycle contains some of Ravel’s most dreamily beautiful music: the still, crystalline ‘music of silence’ created in Le martin-pêcheur. In the words of Roger Nichols, who provides the fascinating booklet notes, ‘From the sepulchral gloom of Un grand sommeil noir to the final exclamation ‘Je bois / À la joie’ …, Ravel’s songs embrace a whole world’.
“After acclaimed recordings of Barber, Ives and Schumann, baritone Gerald Finley and pianist Julius Drake pull off another success with this disc of Ravel songs. These are for the most part works of cool restraint, with passion hidden beneath a jewelled surface, and Finley’s wonderfully flexible voice achieves maximum effect with minimal means.” The Telegraph, 10th June 2009 ****
“Finley sings with the art that conceals art — relishing but never overpointing the texts, and using a wide palette of dynamic and colour to underpin his musical insights. Other highlights are the inward-looking Ronsard à son âme, the passionate Les grands vents venus d’outremer and the lamenting Deux melodies hébraïques. A superb disc.” Sunday Times, 28th June 2009 ****
“Gerald Finley and Julius Drake's survey gathers all his major songs together. It's a beautiful disc that startles in ways you don't always expect.” The Guardian, 12th June 2009 ****
“It feels inadequate…just to describe this enchanting new collection from Gerald Finley and Julius Drake as the best modern recital devoted to the wonderfully varied world of Ravel's songs. Finley gives the melancholic affirmation of 'Kaddisch' its full weight of understated nobility, and is clearly having fun in the drinking song from Don Quichotte à Dulcinée.” BBC Music Magazine, July 2009 *****
“…the mood might be robust or rarefied, but Ravel's sense of colour and atmosphere is infallible. Drake draws the ear ineluctably into Ravel's imaginative world… Finley's mellifluous, malleable baritone is similarly an ideal match for this repertoire, with lines eloquently floated, nuances subtly voiced and character sensitively defined. This is a beguiling programme, beautifully performed.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2009
“There is a vast gulf between the bibulous bravado of the 'Chanson à boire' that Ravel included in his Don Quichotte à Dulcinée songs and the bleak, dark despair of his Verlaine setting Un Grand sommeil noir. Placing them next to one another in this fine selection of over two dozen songs emphasises the broad expressive range that Ravel was able to embrace. It also throws into focus the way that Gerald Finley and Julius Drake can so evocatively tap their emotional substance.
These exquisitely crafted miniatures, whether in the folk-inspired Chants populaires and Cinqmélodies populaires grecques or in the tender Noëlsdes jouets to a text of Ravel's own, show his creative fastidiousness in a consistently positive light: the mood might be robust or rarefied, but Ravel's sense of colour and atmosphere is infallible.
The imagery of the Histoires naturelles, for example, testifies to Ravel's intuitive response to poetry and to his precise placing of the tonal brushstrokes. In this respect, the piano is an essential collaborator, etching in the background for the gliding grace of the swan or the chirping of the cricket.
Drake draws the ear ineluctably into Ravel's imaginative world, as he does elsewhere in the cool restraint of Ronsard à son âme or the turbulence and shifting currents of Les Grands Ventsvenus d'outremer. Finley's mellifluous, malleable baritone is similarly an ideal match for this repertoire, with lines eloquently floated, nuances subtly voiced and character sensitively defined.
This is a beguiling programme, beautifully performed.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010