When Peter Maag died in 2001 aged 82, he left behind a recorded legacy which is, to say the least, very thin. The reason for this is truly mystifying as Maag never missed an opportunity to work with both famous and unknown singers and orchestras. He also had a towering personality and charisma in abundance. All credit to ARTS then, for unearthing some of the maestro's most famous live recordings for all to cherish and enjoy.
"L'heure espagñole" was taped in May 1962 with a special stereo technique; such was the importance that the Italian Radio attached to this recording. The singers at Maag's disposal were also among the best which French opera had to offer at the time.
The opera is based on a parody and anti-symbolist subject taken from Franc-Nohain's piece of 1904. In it, Ravel creates a world of childhood fantasies and also finds the perfect solution for his aesthetic search and the intellectual upheavals of his own time. One must also say that the composer had an irresistible soft-spot for Spanish subjects and was always fascinated by clocks. The work was premièred in Paris in 1911. Full of allusions and caricatural aspects, the piece is difficult and challenging, but its rich and luscious orchestration more than makes up for its complexities.
Although ravel was not one of Maag's favourites, the conductor learned to appreciate the composer's elegant and delicate style (with Ansermet's help) and this interpretation is full of Maag's unique feel for the music. Soloists and orchestra respond with memorable performances which have not been bettered since. This CD is supplemented by a March 1969 live recording from Milan of 'Valse Nobles et sentimentales'. Maag only conducted this piece on three occasions but in spite of this, he presents us with a sensuous interpretation full of colour, vigour and very often; full-blooded passion.
The RAI Sym. Orchestra of Milan respond with a mutual brilliance that is infectious. Sound quality, apart from the usual tape hiss is excellent. A disc of unique historical importance which should command a place in everyone's library.
Copyright © 2005, Gerald Fenech