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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Daphnis and Chloe, suite II, (1913) 16:56
La Valse (1920) 12:21
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)

Symphony in C (1855) 32:54
SWR Radio Symphony Orchestra, Stuttgart
Georges Prêtre, conductor
Live Recordings: October 1997(Daphnis); December 1995 (Valse); June 1991 (Symphony) Liederhalle, Stuttgart. A production of SWR. DDD
HÄNSSLER CLASSIC, CD 90.013 [61:11]
CD available for post-free online mail-order or you may download individual tracks. For some labels you can download the entire CD with a single click and make HUGE savings. The price you see is the price you pay! The full booklet notes are available on-line.

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Of the two symphonic suites that Maurice Ravel constructed from his ballet Daphnis and Chloe, it is the second from 1913 that has remained the most popular. The plot of the ballet comes from a second century novel by the Greek writer Logos, and tells the simple story of a pirate invasion on the isle of Lesbos. Amongst the maidens taken captive is Chloe, Daphnisí lover. With the help of Pan, Daphnis is able to recover his beloved. Ravel commented that he did not set out so much as to depict ancient Greece as much as he set out to create music that was evocative of his own romanticized version of the country. And what a magnificent vision is must have been indeed. One would be hard pressed to find a more picturesque musical score than this.

Georges Prêtre leads a stunning live performance here, every nuance perfectly in place. Take special note of the splendid way in which pastoral setting of the island is set up with the rustling of the leaves in the strings and the singing of birds in the winds. (Track 1 beginning through 2:35). Prêtreís exquisite give and take, his masterful build of tension and volume, and his slight holding back just before every major forte (Track 1 4:15-5:10) is simply breathtaking. This is a magnificently thought-out interpretation executed to perfection. That this was brought off so well in a live performance is simply remarkable.

La Valse, from 1920 is not without a fair share of sarcasm. Designed to depict the self-destruction of the bourgeoisie after the First World War, the piece builds in speed and intensity until it practically destroys itself from the outside in. This is a lively rollicking performance, executed with tremendous flair.

Bizet never considered himself a composer of symphonic music, and wrote his only contribution to the genre as a seventeen-year-old student. This charming classically oriented work lay dormant for many years, being re-discovered in the 1950s. It has since gained a great deal of popularity, and ranks alongside Prokofievís Classical Symphony, and Brittenís Simple Symphony as outstanding examples of how Haydn and Mozart influenced later composers.

Although tight and well balanced, the opening movement here leaves us wanting a bit more effervescence. Tempi are on the stodgy side and while the music is by no means left to die on the vine in the manner of say, Beecham or Walter, it never really gains the kind of sparkle that conductors such as Saraste and Marriner have produced.

Bizet will receive a star in his crown for this work if for no other reason than the near perfect oboe solo that is the centerpiece of the second movement (Track 4, 0:57-2:01) through This is some of the loveliest writing for the instrument in the repertoire. It is delivered here with somewhat shaky intonation, but with a fine lyrical spirit. One rather longs, however, for John Mack or Ronald Roseman to be sitting in the principalís chair.

The scherzo fares better, rolling along at a lively clip, and played with a great deal of verve. The moto perpetuo string and wind writing of the final movement are played to perfection. Ensemble is excellent here and the tempi are just right.

Recorded sound is fine, and the booklet, with notes in four languages is thorough if not a little academic and dry. Not the end-all performance, but recommended nonetheless.

Kevin Sutton

 


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M. RAVEL
Daphnis et Chloe Suite No. 2

La Valse

G. BIZET
Symphony in C
Allegro vivo
Adagio
Scherzo. Allegro vivace
Allegro Vivace




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