There are of course
many recordings in the catalogues of
all these popular colourful Ravel works.
Although these Maazel readings would
not cause me to throw out my favourite
recordings, they are all nicely atmospheric,
exotic and energetic.
The Daphnis et Chloé
Suites are without chorus. Maazel’s
wonderfully atmospheric, poetic readings
have a lovely shimmering diaphanous
beauty. The music is nicely shaped and
balanced and a model of clarity, fragrant
and voluptuous. In the first suite the
contrasting torch-lit pirates’ Danse
guerrière is fiery and muscular
while the concluding bacchanal of the
second suite is excitingly hedonistic.
Maazel delivers a characterful,
idiosyncratic rendering of the Bolero.
The climax has a regimental swagger
with very sardonic closing bars. On
the way, for instance, the early solo
woodwinds are laid back, almost uninvolving.
Later, the trombones seeming to echo
their sense of ennui, add something
of jazzy blues while, contrastingly,
the trumpets are quite snappy. The snare
drum is better integrated into the orchestral
fabric than in many recordings. Maazel’s
La Valse is very atmospheric,
even tingling; acidly sardonic and certainly
suggestive of a crumbling Imperial Viennese
world. Its voluptuousness overpowers
any tenderness while the coda suggests
Stravinsky at his wildest. Turning to
Maazel’s Rhapsodie espagnole:
his ‘Malaguena’ is sensual and sultry,
the ‘Habanera’ fluid, nicely inflected
and languid - and slightly sinister;
while the brilliantly coloured concluding
Feria is exciting enough.
This RCA Red Seal reissue
may boast superior sound but it cannot
dispel, for me, the magic of two older
recordings of the complete Daphnis
et Chloé ballet: Charles
Munch’s 1955 RCA recording with the
Boston Symphony Orchestra and the New
England Conservatory Choir, and Monteux’s
brilliant Decca recording of 1959 with
the Chorus of the Royal Opera House,
Covent Garden and the London Symphony
Orchestra. The 1995 DG Boulez recording,
complete with chorus is also rated well.
Monteux is a premiere recommendation
for the remaining items, so, too, is
of colourful, sensual renditions of
these favourite Ravel works. But buyers
are recommended to sample the competition.