RAVEL Ma Mère L'oye MUSSORGSKY Pictures at and Exhibition
As in Anima Eterna’s previous releases, it is the woodwind and brass that immediately make a distinctive, mellow impact on this coupling of Ravel’s Ma Mère l’Oye Suite with his orchestral realisation of Mussorgsky’s Pictures from an Exhibition, rendered here in the inexact but seemingly ineradicable translation as Pictures at an Exhibition. Anima Eterna, using instruments of the period, pride themselves on their purity of sound, style and expression. If the wind instruments are the first things to catch the ear, the overall balance, blend and breath of fresh air that Jos van Immerseel brings to his interpretations just as compellingly lend the performances lucidity, polish and individuality. The spectrum of colour is scintillating in ‘Laideronette, Impératrice des pagodes’, and the entire suite is marked by suavity, eloquent instrumental detail and a Gallic finesse.
Moreover, the characterisation in the Ravel/Mussorgsky Pictures is well-formed and animated. The glare of modern orchestral sonority that can sometimes give too glinting an edge to Ravel’s scoring is eliminated here by dint of the instruments deployed (a warm but still piquant saxophone in ‘Il vecchio castello’, for instance). The orchestra can capture and convey the imagery of the cumbersome ‘Bydo’ just as convincingly as it does the twittering of the ‘Tuileries’ and the chattering of the unhatched chicks. Even those who prefer Mussorgsky’s original piano version might be swayed by Anima Eterna’s subtlety and mix of graphic discretion and immediacy.