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Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Daphnis et Chloë: Suite No. 2 [1913]
Pavane pour une infante défunte [1910]
La Valse [1919-20]
Ma mère l'Oye: Cinq pièces enfantines [1911]
Boléro [1928]
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra/Paavo Järvi
Recorded in Music Hall, Cincinnati, Ohio, 9-10 February and 21 September, 2003.
TELARC CD-80601 [63:00]


Paavo Järviís collaboration with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra started in September 2001 and this is their fourth CD together. The critical reception of their recordings has so far been mixed; the all-Stravinsky disc was described in one review "Memorable Stravinsky performances coupled with demonstration sound" while on our own pages, Colin Clarke found that an inability to enter into Berliozís world made a disc containing the Symphonie fantastique hard to recommend.

This CD tips the balance to the positive side. The programme is well planned, fully representing Ravelís orchestral moods from the melancholy calm of the Pavane to the sinister fantasy of La Valse. The recording is admirably clear with a three-dimensional space in which the instruments are ideally balanced. This is particularly well illustrated in the Bolero where the percussion always has a good relationship with the rest of the orchestra. The bass drum, weighty but clear, deserves a special mention.

The second suite from Daphnis et Chloé is beautifully realised. Regardless of the balletís programme, of the classical narrative or even how Ravel visualised the mythological landscape, this is some of the most beguilingly delicate music for large forces ever composed. An innocent ear, knowing nothing of programme or provenance, might be at an advantage.

In the Bolero, the solos are poised and idiomatic without exaggerated effects. The piece marches on crisply and mechanically in the best Ravel manner. Throughout the CD, Järvi adheres scrupulously to Ravelís principle of non-interventionist interpretation and does so with excellent results. La Valse particularly benefits from letting the music speak for itself; Järvi plays the Viennese waltz episodes straight, albeit with nicely authentic inflection, creating the sinister effect from the combination of the innocent dance form with harmonic and rhythmic distortions.

Ma Mère líOye and Pavane pour une infante défunte both benefit from the simple approach to create the required delicate atmosphere of poignant innocence. Järvi finds just the right pace for the Pavane; Ravelís frequent complaint about excessively slow tempi is not answerable here.

These are wonderful performances to which I will be returning frequently.

Roger Blackburn

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