Maurice Ravel: Introduction et Allegro – String Quartet in F Major – Chansons madécasses – Cinq mélodies populaires grecques
Ellie Dehn (Soprano), Alexa Still (Flute), Richard Hawkins (Clarinet), Spencer Myer (Piano), Yolanda Kondonassis (Harp), Jupiter String Quartet
Recorded at Clonick Hall, Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Oberlin, Ohio (January 14-16, 2013) – 63’15
Oberlin Music # 884501951616 (Distributed by Naxos of America) – Booklet in English – Libretto in English and French
All of the contributing artists connected with this album are accomplished and merited in their own right, but when the collective force convenes at the state-of-the-art recording facilities at Oberlin Conservatory, the result is exceedingly powerful and persuasive. The Jupiter Quartet distills Ravel’s music with straightforward clarity like that of an artist’s canvas awash using varied brushes, textured materials and a mélange of liquid mediums to create a colorful arrangement of extent tension and memorable pleasance.
Germinal steps of this recording began with renowned harpist Yolanda Kondonassis who set her stakes high for 33 years to be able to perform the album’s opening Introduction et Allegro with personal confidence and satisfaction. The payoff is great for Kondonassis’ notes resound in the air like gossamer threads on a sunlit day that are at times brightened with the titillating flutters of Alexa Still’s flute. The Oberlin entourage creates for the listener an ‘out of body’ experience: close one’s eyes and one will be transported into another realm.
Ravel’s ‘tried and true’ String Quartet in F Major (1903) allows ensemble members to bathe in the spotlight with flits of rhythmic pulsations encapsulated in the four movement delivery: it is convincing, delicate and inspirational.
Ellie Dehn has the sophistication to fold into the music of Chansons madécasses (1926). Set against Evariste Désiré de Forges Parny’s exotic, at times erotic (“Nahandove” and “Il est doux”) and at times abhorrent (“Aoual”) poem, Ravel’s truly combative inner energies, bordering that of Schoenberg atonality, shout from the pages in the middle section, and Dehn manages to honor Ravel with lyrical respectability.
Harp and voice tether possessive fascination as the concluding Cinq melodies populaires grecques (1906) is unveiled. Here we find Kondonassis’ soufflé dexterity prepares the stage for Dehn’s charming and sincere pliability as they run through the pint-sized potpourri numbers that lend itself to distant Celtic harmonies.
Oberlin Music has taken time to meticulously outline the history of Maurice Ravel and the album’s featured compositions. The libretto is complete and parallels English alongside native French. Painter Luiza Vizoli wraps the entire package with delightfully Impressionistic art, most fitting for the music featured inside.