Of all of Ravel's vast output, it may be his chamber music that can be considered the most intimate, the most personal, and the most telling of his life-long fascination with "exotic" musical idioms outside of his native France. This Melba CD offers a cross section of Ravel's magnificent chamber music primarily featuring the violin. Young Australian violinist Kristian Winther opens the album with a riveting performance of the Ravel's virtuosic Tzigane for violin and piano. Winther not only possesses the technical chops to drive through this Gypsy show piece, but also the musical skills necessary to provide listeners with an idiomatic, convincing performance. As quickly as Ravel changes gears, so, too, does Winther. The Second Violin Sonata, whose jazzy second movement is entitled "Blues," showcases the subtler, more nuanced side of Winther's playing. His intonation is spot-on throughout, his tone is warm and rich while still clear and vibrant, and his seamless dialogue with pianist Anthony Romaniuk is a shining example of the true potential of chamber music. After two brief stylistic journeys through Ravel's Spanish (Pièce en forme de Habañera) and Hebrew (Deux melodies hébraïques) writing, the album concludes with a performance of the Sonata for Violin and Cello. Winther is joined by cellist Michele Wood; the two artists' sound is pleasingly complementary, and both play with equal measure of warmth and inspired attention to detail.
4½ stars performance/ 4½ stars sound