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Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Complete Works for Violin and Piano (or cello)
Sonate posthume for violin and piano (1897) [13:05]
Habañera [2:15]
Berceuse sur le nom de Fauré [2:39]
Sonata for violin and cello (1903) [30:05]
Kaddish (1931) [4:55]
Tzigane (1924) [10:30]
Sonata for violin and piano (1927) [17:19]
Lana Neudauer (violin), Paul Rivinius (piano), Julian Steckel (cello)
rec. Großer Sendesaal des Saarländischen Rundfunks, 1-5 May 2012

Ravel’s music for solo violin is found here, in pleasing performances which make this a compelling single CD collection. While not the most prolific of composers, Ravel did create a legacy that offers abundant discoveries to the discerning collector. None of the music here ranks among his more famous compositions, and if the two sonatas and the Tzigane are better known than the remaining items, all the music deserves our attention.
The world’s famous violinists are likely to record the Sonata for violin and piano and perhaps the gypsy showpiece Tzigane, so the chief attraction here, and it is a significant one, is the new disc’s very completeness. Among recent recordings those of Joshua Bell (Sony 88697891822) and Tasmin Little (in a bargain priced 2CD set, EMI 0858582) are typical in offering mixed programmes of French music - the latter even includes orchestral works by Delius.
To begin with the Sonata. Neudauer here confirms her credentials in a reading which compares well with the competition. The engineers capture an excellent and atmospheric perspective, and her duo partner Paul Rivinius is also heard to appropriate effect. The finale is a notorious example of Ravel’s interest in the new (for him) idiom of jazz, and the performers articulate this spirit splendidly.
The other major work in the collection is the Sonata for violin and cello, whose name on the front cover of the disc is tucked underneath the main title of ‘Complete Works for Violin and Piano’. No matter if it sits oddly in terms of this overall description, it is the ideal music to complete the disc, and for every conceivable reason. The style is more serious, encouraged perhaps by the gathered sonorities of the two stringed instruments. Neudauer with Julian Steckel articulates the darker mood of the music across its four contrasted movements. The experience of the whole is somehow more than the sum of the parts, just as Ravel must have intended.
Of the shorter items, Tzigane is the most substantial and the best known. This was a showpiece for the Hungarian violinist Jelly d'Aranyi, which inevitably used the gypsy style in a brilliant pastiche. It fetaures the techniques which are the stock-in-trade of the virtuoso: trills, double-stopping, harmonics. As such the music is a long way from the character of the contemporary Sonata for violin and cello, but that is the point. The music displays a different aspect of Lana Neudauer’s personality and of Ravel’s too.
Ravel clearly did not think the single movement sonata movement he completed in 1897 was his best effort, and he suppressed it. The first performance took place in his centenary year of 1975. As with any music by a great composer, it is of interest to us now, though it does seem earnestly long for its material. It was perhaps unwise to position it in pole position as the first track on the disc, if such things matter. Of the other short items, the Berceuse, Kaddish and Habañera, the latter is particularly interesting because it found its true fame as a movement of the orchestral Rapsodie Espagnole.
While not intended as a disc to listen to in a single sitting, this collection has an admirable completeness and the performances are first rate.
Terry Barfoot 

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