The emancipation of the human voice in terms of communicating the intricacies and inflections of the French language is comprehensively illustrated in this superb Ravel recital by the mezzo-soprano Nora Gubisch and her pianist Alain Altinoglu. To call the piano parts mere accompaniments is to drastically underrate their importance in contributing to the profile of a particular mélodie: Ravel’s understanding of the piano’s expressive potential is artlessly deployed in his song-writing and Altinoglu exploits the colours and textures with the utmost eloquence. The spare instrumental sonorities for flute (Magali Mosnier) and cello (Jérôme Pernoo) as well as piano in the Trois Chansons madécasses are further examples of the instinctive way in which Ravel conjured up evocative atmosphere.
Gubisch, with a vocal timbre of mellifluous beauty and well-focused richness, responds with a strikingly malleable spectrum of sensibility to the varied scenarios that Ravel encapsulates, from the descriptiveness of the Histoires naturelles to the exoticisms of the Cinq Mélodies populaires grecques and the plaintive, melismatic lines of ‘Kaddisch’ from the Deux Mélodies hébraïques. She relishes the words of these mélodies as much as Ravel clearly did, and she has a wonderful way of capturing an image and voicing it with subtlety and winning allure. In an exquisite miniature such as ‘Sur l’herbe’, the fluctuations of pace and emphasis are conveyed with innate perception, seductiveness and gentleness of humour, always with Altinoglu applying just the right pianistic brush strokes to make the picture complete.