RAVEL L'Enfant et les Sortilèges / Ozawa 4786760

. . . a performance of remarkable assurance, beautifully recorded . . . and every texture and instrumental detail perfectly placed and meticulously realised by the fabulous hand-picked Saito Kinen Orchestra . . . there's a light touch to the humour, and a wistful elegance to the moments of pathos . . . which are part of a lucidly thought-out and exquisitely realised dramatic scheme . . . ["Shéhérazade"] makes a suitably sumptuous pairing. With Ozawa fastidiously sifting and polishing the kaleidoscope of timbres around her, Graham charts the swelling emotion of the first song, "Asie", to an overwhelming climax, then perfectly scales down her approach for the much slighter pair of settings that follows, maintaining the velvety allure of her voice throughout.

. . . [Ozawa conducts "L'Enfant et les sortilèges" stylishly and gives a] beautifully languid and atmospheric performance of "Shéhérazade", with Susan Graham beguiling as the mezzo soloist, and a sizzling romp through Ravel's Spanish odyssey, "Alborado del gracioso".

. . . [Ozawa and the Saito Kinen Orchestra] play with needle-sharp precision and, where the opportunity presents itself, refined beauty . . . Isabel Leonard makes a believable Child, from the tantrums at the start to the pity, sympathy and loneliness of the ending. Her warm mezzo comes into its own at "Toi, le coeur de la rose" . . . Anna Christy's dazzling coloratura as Fire gives way, after the charming number for the shepherds and shepherdesses, to a heartfelt rendering of the Princess's lament . . . [Susan Graham] is magically sensuous in "Shéhérazade" . . . In "Asie", abetted by Ozawa, she moves from the half-light at the beginning to a terrific climax . . . The two shorter songs that follow are done with a tender, veiled delicacy. A lively "Alborada del gracioso" concludes an enjoyable disc.

All performances are excellent. The cast for the delightful opera could not be bettered, and Susan Graham is in top form in the song cycle. Audio is excellent . . .

. . . this live recording of Ravel's jewel-like score is an ideal showcase for the conductor's meticulous ear for colour and orchestral detail, and his unerring sense of expressive scale and dramatic shape.

. . . [the "Shéhérazade" song cycle] receives a purposeful reading, Graham capturing the sultry sensuousness of both text and music and bringing to the unfolding of its three small narratives a rich diversity of expression. "Alborada", meanwhile, shimmers in a bright and shiny account from the virtuoso orchestra . . . ["L'Enfant"] represents exactly the kind of repertoire in which Ozawa has excelled over the decades, his much admired ability to separate out its rich, subtle and multi-coloured textures memorably displayed and finely captured in the full-range recording. From a purely orchestral point of view, the performance is beautifully managed, bringing out the numerous modernist elements of Ravel's score . . . Isabel Leonard sets down a witty, perceptive and apparently natural portrayal of the Child . . . Anna Christy's vocalism as both Fire and the Nightingale is neat and pristine and she registers as a warm and communicative Princess.

. . . [Ozawa] maintains his tender, childlike innocence with perhaps the addition of a new note of wistfulness. This Decca CD is fleshed out with more Ravel, and Ozawa certainly knows his way around this music, but he's never been better than he is in Ravel's wise and touching opera.

. . . a nod to the particularly fruitful career of a conductor with a lifelong rapport with Ravel's music. The pairing of a lyric fantasy, a triptych for mezzo-soprano and orchestra and an orchestrated movement from a solo piano suite creates an impressionistic jewel of tonal patterns and colours, oriental elements and imaginative stories . . . ["L'Enfant et les sortilèges"]: Isabel Leonard's portrayal of the mischievous child is light and playful and, even more notably, the whole cast is outstanding . . . ["Shéhérazade"]: The music is dreamy, sensuous, in full rapport with the text. Mezzo-soprano Susan Graham is powerful yet full of emotional nuances. "Alborada del gracioso", showcasing Saito Kinen Orchestra's engaging interpretation of Ravel's world, completes this highly recommended recording.

In every way magical -- singing, staging, and sound quality . . .

. . . das Fantastische erschliesst sich in der Musik viel frappanter als in jedweder Bebilderung. Das suggeriert uns jedenfalls die aktuelle Neueinspielung von Seiji Ozawa. Keine Altersmilde beim gerade achtzig gewordenen Maestro, sondern ein vollsaftiges, jeden Effekt auskostendes Musizieren. Ravel nicht als Impressionist, sondern als brillanter Miniaturenmaler voll drastischer Einfälle.

["L'Enfant et les sortilèges"]: Même physiquement diminué, le chef nippon n'a pas son pareil pour faire étinceler un orchestre, sans que le geste perde en fluidité: la tendre luxuriance mise à l'épisode "chinoâ" de la Tasse, les glissandos espiègles des cordes et le chahut des vents que déchaînent les Chats, l'atmosphère vraiment féerique . . . Pures merveilles . . . Yvonne Naef, Isabel Leonard, et Paul Gay chantent honorablement . . . Inspiré par la "Schéhérazade" potelée de Susan Graham, dont les soupirs et le galbe voluptueux, un rien trop languides pour les envolées d'Asie, s'accordent idéalement à la "démarche féminine et lasse" de "L'Indifférent". L'Orchestre de Seito Kinen, là encore, nous invite à feuilleter un superbe livre "d'Images".