Impressionist Ravel

A few remarks about an incomparable recording, by a most extraordinary duo, and  Ravel, Impressionist composer of marvelous music for violin and piano

This is partly a personal reminiscence, as I was privileged and honored to have been a student and friend of the late, great violinist Charles Libove. His playing, which defies all attempts at description, was something that no one who had heard him (and I was supremely lucky – besides being present at unforgettable chamber music concerts featuring Classic, Romantic, Impressionist, and Contemporary repertoire –  to receive many impromptu serenades during lessons as well as having the opportunity to attend rehearsals of his string quartet) could ever stop wanting more of.

Impressionist Maurice Ravel’s compositions for violin and piano

Recording was, unfortunately, something to which he did not devote much energy. So, when in 1980 he and his wife, the wonderful pianist, Nina Lugovoy, came out with the long-playing record of all the music the Impressionist Maurice Ravel composed for violin and piano, it was a nearly overwhelming event. Finally, here was something that could be played over and over, day and night, whenever one desired to hear that heart-wrenching narration, those other-worldly nuances of color and depth, the brilliant mastery always in service of the music. I wore out more than one (whose cover had been inscribed by the two artists) copy of that record; fortunately, Charles’ and Nina’s generosity meant I had access to an ever-renewing stash of fresh albums!

Impressionist Maurice Ravel goes from vinyl to compact disk

Impressionist Ravel Pillow
Violin Line Drawings
on Old Paper Effect Pillows

by missprinteditions

In 2000 a compact disk was compiled, containing Ravel’s violin and piano music (which, in its vinyl iteration, had been the first such anthology) and the addition of Frank Bridge’s Sonata for Violin and Piano (1932), which is an eminently suitable complement to the rest. Ravel’s Sonate Posthume, although written in 1897 when the composer was 23, was not published until some 40 years after his death, long after the Impressionist period had started to give way to new modes. The other sonata reached completion in 1927 and was to be Ravel’s final work for these two instruments, with a famous “blues” movement that might be said to show the influence of George Gershwin, for whom Ravel had deep admiration. Ravel’s Berceuse, composed 25 years after the earliest sonata, pays homage to his teacher, Gabriel Fauré, by using a melody based on the latter’s name. Tzigane, which was orchestrated by Ravel not long after its first performance, is no doubt more often heard that way rather than in the original setting presented on this recording. One is all the more grateful to experience it in this fashion, if only for comparative ends.

Trying to say something meaningful about the playing makes it all too clear how inadequate words are next to music itself, and certainly music made by such a violinist as was Charles Libove. He was the man of all voices, from stark Baroque to dreamy Impressionist to impassioned Romanticist; one always hears the composer speaking and almost no longer knows what instrument is conveying the emotions. The direction is unfailingly evident from the first note. Time stands still, yet we are always moving forward. Listen to this recording, and be amazed.

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4 Comments

  1. I own that CD, it is great! I can recommend it to all classical music lovers.

  2. Charles Libove was one of the finest teachers I ever had. I studied with him in the 80’s at Peabody Conservatory. His tone was fine!

    I own and love the recording of Charles’ and Nina’s Ravel Sonata.

    May I purchase the photo of Charles Playing the violin?

  3. Jillienne,
    I am sorry to say that person who owned everything on this blog (i am only admin) passed away few weeks ago. She was also student of Charles Libove. I dont have access to photos or other material published on this blog any more.

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