Ravel: L'heure espagnole; Chabrier: España

Reviewed on Fri 01 Sep, 2017

Asher Fisch conducts the Munich Radio Orchestra with excellent control and sensitivity; the cast of five singers is well suited to the task.

The earlier of Maurice Ravel’s two operas, L’heure espagnole (1908) shares some of the comic spirit of his later one, L’enfant et les sortilèges (1925), and his ongoing immersion in Spanish folk music and dance, as in his Rapsodie espagnole composed at about the same time. Where else in opera can you find such a fascination with mechanical toys and clockwork mechanisms (three different clocks within the orchestra, according to the score), combined with a racy and farcical story lasting 50 minutes? Ravel’s rich harmonic idiom and orchestration are as full of wizardry as any other work of his. Asher Fisch conducts the Munich Radio Orchestra with excellent control and sensitivity; the cast of five singers is well suited to the task. A glittering concert performance of Chabrier’s España, added as an extra offering on the disc, reminds us of the composer who was one of Ravel’s major influences.
–Mark DeVoto