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These nine essays by a team of distinguished international scholars bring ‘new interdisciplinary perspectives and insights’. ranging across diverse aspects of ravel’s life and work, they are principally aimed at academics and students, though there is plenty to interest the more general reader. steven Huebner’s opening piece on ‘Ravel’s Perfection’ includes the tough section ‘Philosophical adumbrations’, but also makes us consider how the apparently perfect finish to Ravel’s music has led to accusations of coolness or detachment.

In discussing the collaboration between Ravel and Colette on L’ Enfant et les sortilèges, including some correspondence, Emily Kilpatrick shows that its outstanding success was partly due to their ‘shared affinity for the interplay of music and language’. Michael J Puri, in ‘Memory, pastiche and aestheticism’, finds parallels between Ravel and Proust. in ‘erotic ambiguity in Ravel’s music’ Lloyd Whitesell enters the realm of gender studies, while touching upon the erotic teasing and evasion in certain ravel compositions. also discussed is the ‘the inscrutable character of ravel’s intimate emotional life’, as noted by many acquaintances. The final section of this essay is entitled ‘The pose of indifference’. Nicholas gebhardt’s examination of the important historical background to Ravel’s 1928 North American tour is followed by Deborah Mawer’s essay on Ravel’s ‘engagement with jazz’ – ‘well- informed, gallicized, and personalized’. in ‘encountering la Valse: perspectives and pitfalls’, David Epstein passionately argues against the practice of many conductors in rushing the climax of this work. Ravel’s indication ‘pressez’, he warns, should not mean sacrificing the deeper, darker meaning in favour of virtuosity and sensationalism.

Stephanie Jordan analyses Richard Alston’s Shimmer – a modern dance interpretation of movements from the Sonatine and Miroirs, showing that even Ravel’s non-dance music can dance. To conclude this fine, superbly produced collection, Erik Baeck gives an engrossing account of the composer’s terminal illness, comparing his brain disorder with those of other famous artists whose creativity was similarly affected.

PHILIP BORG-WHEELER Read the full review on Agora Classica


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