When the Italian Radio, RAI decided to record the concert that Peter Maag gave on the 16th March 1963, it was hardly anticipated what a service was being done both to Maag himself and the musical world in general. When the maestro was persuaded to conduct this Ravel concert, recordings of 'L'enfant' were a rare commodity and amazingly enough, after this special occasion he never returned to the work up till his death in 2001.
This may be due to the fact that Maag was never a particular admirer of Ravel, something which is still a mystery as this recording reveals Maag's exceptional feel for this piece.
The central theme of the opera is the fantasy and innocence of childhood in whose world Ravel finds refuge to his disillusions of politics and war. Completed in 1925 to a libretto by Colette (reworked several times), the opera is full of symbolist elements enmeshed in a complex tapestry of magical sounds and situations. Its unique structure requires a strong musical characterisation, and the almost entirely French cast were certainly up to the challenge, handling the exacting demands of the composer with exceptional insight.
The orchestra responds brilliantly to Maag's inspired direction, producing a warm and diversely coloured sound world that makes one yearn for days of yore, when dreams were our only realities.
The Suite, 'Ma mère l'Oye' (Mother Goose) completes this CD. One of Ravel's most evocative and delightful pieces, this work is an ideal vehicle for virtuosity, and Maag grabs the opportunity with both hands, giving a detailed and highly vigorous account of what was to be his last interpretation of this Suite.
The digital remastering of the original done by RAI is very successful, particularly when one has to consider that the missing final part of the stereo version (about 1:30) was replaced by an accidentally re-discovered mono version which was duly edited. This is another important addition to the Maag discography, and should be considered seriously by all those who have a weak spot for the historical.
Copyright © 2005, Gerald Fenech