Joseph-Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) is often discussed in the same breath as his contemporary Claude Debussy. Born some thirteen years after Debussy, but also in France, Ravel often suffered unduly from critics eager to promote the work of the elder composer.
In many ways it was only when Debussy died in 1918 that the value of Ravel’s work was fully acknowledged. It was at this point that he finally adopted the mantle of the greatest living French composer.
In truth, the two composers were very different from each other. Debussy was always something of a radical, his work leading to the creation of impressionistic composition. Ravel whilst employing impressionistic techniques was more a classicist in his overall approach.
One of his most well known works that included a greater use of impressionistic, and perhaps more simplistic styling, "Ma Mere L’Oye", can be found on this release from MSR Classics (MS 1130).
Many of his contemporary French composers such as Saint-Saens and Massenet often drew their inspirations from Germany, and Wagner in particular. It was Debussy, and later Ravel who led the way towards the creation of this French school of composition, a move that can be seen, in part, as something of a reaction against Wagnerism.
Whilst Debussy would often seek to abandon formality towards ambiguity, Ravel would adopt a more structured approach to his compositions. A superb orchestrator, he had the ability to combine both the contemporary alongside the classical.
However a criticism that is often leveled at Ravel is that he could be guilty of constantly remodeling, of trying to perfect the already perfect. It was a trait that bordered on near obsession.
This collection, performed by Windscape, opens with "Vales Nobles Et Sentimentales", transcribed here by bassoonist Frank Morelli . The informative album notes advise that Ravel said of this piece, ‘the title, sufficiently indicates my intention of writing a series of waltzes in imitation of Schubert. The seventh waltz seems to me to be the most characteristic.’
Windscape was formed in 1994 by five renowned first chair woodwind soloists. Constantly evolving, it has toured extensively across the USA, Canada, and as far afield as Asia. As Artists-In-Residence at the Manhattan School of Music it is notable for its innovative programs amid instrumental virtuosity and creative energy.