Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Daphnis et Chloé: Suite No. 1 (I Nocturne; Interlude; Danse guerrière) [11:12]
Suite No. 2 (Lever du jour; Pantomime; Danse générale) [15:55]
Pavane pour une infante défunte [6:30]
Alborado del gracioso [7:22]
Rapsodie espagnole [15:10]
Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam/Bernard Haitink
rec. Grotezaal, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, September 1961 (Daphnis et Chloé: Suite No. 2, Pavane, Alborado, Rapsodie espagnole), September 1971 (Daphnis et Chloé: Suite No. 1)
DECCA ELOQUENCE. 480 2381 [56:58]

This is not one of Eloquence’s most generous discs though we must bear in mind that these discs retail at £3.50 per head if ordered direct from Buywell.

Haitink has an established and respected track record in Ravel. These are however the Decca rather than the later Philips sessions. Most date from 1961 and only the First Daphnis Suite with which the disc starts is from1971; that’s close to forty years ago. That Nocturne from Daphnis is good and sounds wonderful with a real shiver and shimmer in the strings. It's all most subtly done though the tension seemed slacker than I have heard with Monteux on Philips. The machine gun rapped out impacts in Danse Guerrière are memorable as is the wide ranging de luxe recording. There is less of a sense of artificial zooming in on detail than often applied to Decca artefacts of that era. Back seven years and one can hear what all the fuss was about. This is masterly Ravel but now the perspective suavely shifts without aural disorientation. The music registers delightfully. After Daphnis comes a Pavane that is nice but there are better. The tempo is just too pushed and the horn seems less secure that I have heard elsewhere. Monteux is superb in this as also is a much underrated Antonio Pedrotti recorded on Supraphon with the Czech Phil and heard by me last in a Reddifusion 3LP box alongside Debussy by Baudo and other Ravel from Fournet. Alborada del Grazioso (Eloquence have it as Alborado) is sensationally done though the technology of the time cannot handle the massive dynamic range contrasts so a degree of engineering compression is obvious. Rapsodie Espagnole is another of my favourites among the Ravel canon. Haitink is exemplary either in languor or in impetuous eruptions. The recording again evinces those qualities of dynamic belting and buffering that takes away the impact of contrast between loud and whisper. The useful English-only notes are by Eloquence stalwart, Raymond Tuttle - always good value.

These are all analogue-derived and one become used to the benignly hissing side salad.

Healthy Ravel exegesis compromised somewhat by blunted dynamic contrast. Compulsory listening for Haitink and Concertgebouw specialists. These are declared as first international releases on CD.

Rob Barnett

Healthy Ravel exegesis compromised somewhat by blunted dynamic contrast.