Here, from Pavane pour une infante défunte to Valses nobles et sentimentales, Vanessa Wagner presents works from Ravel’s fruitful early-mature period. Keenly interested in the music of her time and dedicated to the great repertoires of both past and present, she brings out admirably the different dimensions that are to be found in Ravel’s music. In seeking to understand the actuality of Ravel’s works, she reveals their impact today.
The famous Pavane pour une infante défunte, an early work, takes us into the world of the dance that perfumes the musical world of Ravel. Gaspard de la nuit is in the French Romantic tradition, a triptych inspired by three of Aloysius Bertrand’s prose-ballads: Ondine, the water nymph; Le Gibet (The Gallows), painting a gruesome picture of ‘a bell tolling from the walls of a city, beneath the skyline, and the body of a hanged man, reddened by the setting sun’; Scarbo, depicting the night-time mischief of a mocking dwarf. We return to the dance with the bold Valses nobles et sentimentales, ‘a series of waltzes in imitation of Schubert’, written in 1911. Finally, Ma Mère l'Oye (‘Mother Goose’), based on the tales of Charles Perrault and others, shows Ravel’s affection for childhood days.
Vanessa Wagner brings out the modernity of these scores, their ‘sudden movements of violence’, their ‘moments of ineffable sweetness’. She plays with rigour and intensity, and with a velvet touch.