OZAWA AT 80
Decca celebrates Seiji Ozawa’s 80th birthday on September 1st 2015 with his first-ever recording of Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges
Magic, mystery and mischief pervade Seiji Ozawa’s new Decca recording, an enthralling album of works by Maurice Ravel inspired by exotic visions of the East and a fairy-tale world populated by talking armchairs, singing cats and dancing teacups. Maestro Ozawa conducts the Saito Kinen Orchestra, SKF Matsumoto Chorus, SKF Matsumoto Children’s Chorus and an outstanding cast in the ‘Fantaisie lyrique’, L’enfant et les sortilèges. He is also joined by the great American mezzo-soprano Susan Graham in Ravel’s song-cycle Shéhérazade and crowns his album with a scintillating performance of Alborada del gracioso in the composer’s orchestration. The title is set for international release in August.
Seiji Ozawa has a long and distinguished association with French music. The release of L’enfant et les sortilèges marks an important addition to his discography, which already contains outstanding recordings of Ravel’s orchestral masterworks and songs with orchestra. His heartfelt interpretation of the work, recorded live during performances at Japan’s Saito Kinen Festival, marked the conductor’s return to the concert hall following his recovery from surgery for life-threatening cancer in 2013. One of the concerts was attended by the Emperor of Japan, who travelled to the city of Matsumoto especially for the occasion. The production’s international cast includes the vivacious American mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard as the child; the Swiss contralto Yvonne Naef as his mother; the French tenor Jean-Paul Fouchécourt as the teapot, the spirit of mathematics; and the French mezzo-soprano Marie Lenormand as the cat and the squirrel.
Grammy Award-winner Susan Graham, hailed by Gramophone magazine as “America’s favourite mezzo”, takes the solo part in Shéhérazade. Her celebrated affinity for French vocal music was recognised in 2008 by the French government, which awarded her the Chevalier de la Legion d’honneur. Graham proves the ideal interpreter of Ravel’s settings of three “oriental” texts by Tristan Klingsor, pseudonym of the poet, musician and painter Léon Leclère. The album closes with Alborada del gracioso, originally written in 1904-05 as the fourth movement of the piano suite Miroirs and subsequently orchestrated by the composer.
In advance of Maestro Ozawa’s 80th birthday on September 1st 2015, Decca has also released a specially curated 50-CD boxset of albums from the conductor’s immense and award-winning discography. Seiji Ozawa: The Philips Years, presented as part of Decca’s “Original Jacket Collection”, includes Ozawa’s complete recordings with the Vienna Philharmonic; his cycle of the Mahler symphonies with the Boston Symphony, as well as his earliest LPs with the Orchestre de Paris and San Francisco Symphony.