Ravel would probably have been pleased for Isao Tomita to arrange some of his best known works for the state of the art in synthesizers. After all he consistently reworked his own piano pieces for orchestra, as well as other composers' works (e.g. Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition). So there's no one true arrangement. Although some will always be put off by the sci-fi, space associations of Tomita's sounds, the spirit of Ravel's constant search for new sound colour is alive in the electronic pioneer.
Tomita's delivery of the melancholy "Pavane" is delicate and tasteful. The one bit of spice he adds is a funereal closing section introduced by an enormous cavernous drumbeat, reminiscent of Vangelis's "To the Unknown Man". It's not inappropriate - she might have been a damn important princess. Apart from a couple of whizzy noises, "Bolero" is mostly a verbatim synth rendition of Ravel's unsubtle one-tune crescendo. Its famous snare drum refrain pans gently across the stereo. The short fairy-tale portraits of "Ma Mere l'Oye" (Mother Goose) are sensitively performed, most strikingly the jangly Oriental "Laideronette" and the verdantly lush "Fairy Garden".
There's no more beautifully appropriate piece here than the suite from "Daphnis and Chloe" to rearrange for electronics. The opening impressionistic evocation of sunrise, with bird calls and flood of light, foreshadowed Tangerine Dream's best works. The piece's sensual, and finally erotic romanticism are brought out fully by Tomita's keening theremin-style whistles, harp-like sparkles, exhilarating sweeps and cathedral-sized washes of synth choir. I'm not biased by having heard the Tomita version first.
March 18, 2005