Maurice Ravel: Cantates pour le Prix de Rome

Maurice Ravel: Cantates pour le Prix de Rome

BIS-2582 (BIS Records, CD, 2 discs)

FIRST RELEASE (3 June 2022)

Playing time: 78'07"/24'04" - TT 102'11"
Tracks: 14 + 5
Booklet pages: 72
℗ 2022 BIS Records AB
© 2022 BIS Records AB
Reviewer: Gerald Fenech
Review of Maurice Ravel: Cantates pour le Prix de Rome published on 17 June 2022

Véronique Gens, soprano (Alyssa, CD1 tracks 1-4)
Vannina Santoni, soprano (Myrrha, CD1 tracks 11-14)
Clarisse Dalles, soprano (CD2 tracks 2-5)
Sophie Koch, mezzo-soprano (Alcyone, CD1 tracks 5-10)
Janina Baechle, mezzo-soprano (Sophrona, CD1 tracks 5-10)
Julien Behr, tenor (Braïzyl, L'ombre de Céyx, CD1 tracks 1-10)
Michael Spyres, tenor (Sardanapale, CD1 tracks 11-14)
Mathys Lagier, tenor (CD2 track 1)
Jacques Imbrailo, baritone (Barde, Bélésis, CD1 tracks 1-4 and 11-14)
Chœur National des Pays de la Loire (CD2)
Valérie Fayet, chorusmaster (CD2)
Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire
Pascal Rophé, conductor

Maurice Ravel (1873-1937):


Alyssa (Légende irlandaise; text: Marguerite Coiffier, 1903)
1 Prélude
2 Scène I: Elfes légers, elfes errants
3 Scène II: Alyssa ! ma beauté, ma lumière
4 Scène III: Le Barde, porte-glaive !

Alcyone (Scène dramatique; text: Eugène and Edouard Adenis, 1902)
5 Prélude
6 Scène I: À l'horizon, les blanches voiles ...
7 Scène II: Description symphonique
8 Scène III: Ah ! Dieux puissants !
9 Scène IV: Mon aimé ! Mon aimé !
10 Scène V: Ma fille, mon enfant !

Myrrha (Scène lyrique; text: Fernand Beissier, after Lord Byron, 1901)
11 [Prélude]
12 Scène I: Me voici seul enfin !
13 Ainsi qu’un signal [1 bar before Fig 12]
14 Scène III: Tu ne passeras pas, ô roi


1 L'Aurore (1905, text: anon)

2 La Nuit (1902, text: Auguste Laucassade)

3 Les Bayadères (1900, text: Henri Cazalis (Jean Lahor))

4 Matinée de Provence (1903, text: anon)

5 Tout est lumière (1901, text: Victor Hugo)

Recorded 3—5, 8 and 10—11 September 2020 at La Cité des Congrès, Nantes (CD1) and 10—11 September 2021 at the Centre de Congrès, Angers, France (CD 2).

Between 1803 and 1968, the Grand Prix de Rome marked the zenith of composition studies at the Paris Conservatoire. In Maurice Ravel's time the competition included an elimination round - a fugue and a choral piece - followed by a cantata in the form of an operatic scena. The entries were judged by a jury which generally favoured expertise and conformity more than originality and Ravel's growing reputation as a member of the avant-garde was therefore hardly to his advantage, and may explain why he never won the coveted Premier Grand Prix, and the three-year stay at Rome's Villa Medici that went with it. The present two-disc set brings together all the vocal works that Ravel composed for the Prix de Rome – five shorter settings for choir and orchestra and three cantatas, each with three characters taking part in a plot which followed a more or less fixed sequence of introduction, recitative and aria, a duet, a trio and a brief conclusion. First published more than half a century after Ravel's death, these test pieces for the Prix de Rome have never acquired the popularity of his other early works, such as Pavane pour une infante défunte, Jeux d'eau or the String Quartet. They are worth more than their reputation as academic exercises might suggest, however, and deserve to be better known, especially when performed by the Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire with Pascal Rophé and a team of vocal soloists including Véronique Gens and Michael Spyres.