Eileen Smith
New Classics (UK)

French composer Maurice Ravel’s Tzigane is a rhapsodic composition originally written for violin with accompaniment by luthéal (a comparatively new piano-like instrument) in 1924, and dedicated to the Hungarian violinist Jelly d’Arányi. Later versions replaced the luthéal by piano or orchestra. The name of the piece is derived from the generic European term for ‘gypsy’ (in French: gitan, tsigane or tzigane rather than the Hungarian cigány) although it does not use any authentic Gypsy melodies. In Ravel’s days in Paris gypsy/gitan/tsigane/tzigane referred not so much to the Roma (Gypsy) people and the ‘gypsy’ style of the work was more a kind of popular musical exoticism.

The luthéal never really became a fashionable music instrument and by the end of the 20th century the chamber music version of the piece relied on the piano as accompanying instrument, though it’s also often performed as an arrangement (made by Ravel) for solo violin and orchestra. The Impressionistic Tzigane demonstrates Ravel’s ability to imitate the Romantic style of violin showmanship promoted by such composer-virtuosi as Paganini and Sarasate, and the formidable demands of this music provide the perfect showcase for the excellent young Australian violinist, Kristian Winther. His auspicious debut recording is in the company of two of Australia’s finest chamber musicians, pianist Anthony Romaniuk and cellist Michelle Wood. All three bring exuberant and fresh artistry to the celebrated pieces Deux mélodies hébraïques, Pièce en forme de Habañera, Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 2, the rarely performed Sonata for Violin and Cello and the title work, Tzigane. These world-class performances of Ravel’s exciting and colourful music are recorded in superb SACD sound and the elegant packaging, including a 34-page illustrated booklet, is of Melba’s usual high standard.