Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Louis Frémaux conducts Ravel
Daphnis et Chloé - Suite No. 2 (1912) [17:10]
La Valse (1920) [12:37]
Ma Mère l'Oye – complete ballet (1908) [29:01]
Boléro (1928) [15:47]
London Symphony Orchestra/Louis Frémaux
rec. 1990. DDD
Previously on Collins Classics 1024-2
ALTO ALC1087 [74:34]

Louis Frémaux was one of the formative voices for my early enthusiasms for classical music. Two events stand out. The first time I heard Massenet's El Cid ballet in the Studio 4 recording on EMI with the CBSO and then circa 1973 hearing the same conductor and orchestra in Bristol's Colston Hall as a a student. I forget the rest of the programme but the memory that still spells enchantment was his performance of Ma Mère L'Oye. I left the concert hall for the interval walking on air. Ravel has had other fine champions over the years so don’t miss out on CDs by Inghelbrecht (Testament) and Monteux. Awaiting CD revival are the 1950s recordings made by Pedro de Freitas Branco. My knowledge of the latter is down to the late Paul Shoemaker. Previn, Pedrotti and Monteux still do it for me - and those versions are at the top of the game - but Frémaux's Collins recording with the LSO is still very special. This may not the conductor’s Birmingham home orchestra but the LSO has a distinguished Ravel lineage including with Monteux and Previn.

To the job in hand: This generous Ravel selection is in lambent sound. Listen to the superbly slurred heat haze at 6.30 in the Daphnis suite. It's a shame that the Daphnis suite is not sub-divided into three separate tracks rather than a single channel of 17:10 but this is a small price to pay. The eruptive Danse Générale is as bacchanalian as you could wish. La Valse shivers, lilts and mesmerises just as it should. Bolero is nicely done with plenty of character from the LSO first benches. As for the complete Ma Mère L'Oye, this is deeply satisfying though some of the solos and miniature fanfares could with advantage have been more distantly balanced. The Pavane (tr.5) is beautifully poised. The recording is so analytical that it even points up the clicking flute keys at 0:43 in the Chinoiserie of the Laideronnette movement. The Apothéose is one of my favourite moments in all classical music. Its sense of homecoming delight encased in melancholy carried by the heart-filling tolling of the horns is as irresistible as the bell-resonant finale of de Falla's El amor brujo. Such a pity there was no space for the Pavane pour une enfante défunte and the Rapsodie Espagnole.

This is a very good Ravel collection and could more than serviceably stand as the only representation of the composer in any collection.

All credit then to Alto for getting the licensing rights for this CD .I hope there will be more ex-Collins Frémaux material including a far from inconsequential Walton Symphony No 1 on the same label.

Good notes from James Murray - just what we have come to expect from this source.

Rob Barnett