One of the most grown-up review sites around


Search MusicWeb Here

     
  
 

 

International mailing


  Founder: Len Mullenger             Senior Editor: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider


16th-19th November


Shostakovich 4, 11 Nelsons
Transparent Granite!


Nothing but Praise


BrucKner 4 Nelsons
the finest of recent years.

superb BD-A sound

This is a wonderful set


Telemann continues to amaze


A superb disc

Performances to cherish

An extraordinary disc.

rush out and buy this

I favour above all the others

Frank Martin - Exemplary accounts

Asrael Symphony
A major addition


Another Bacewicz winner


match any I’ve heard


An outstanding centenary collection


personable, tuneful, approachable


a very fine Brahms symphony cycle.


music that will be new to most people


telling, tough, thoughtful, emotionally fleet and powerfully recorded


hitherto unrecorded Latvian music

 

REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers

Advertising on
Musicweb



Donate and keep us afloat

 

New Releases

Naxos Classical


Nimbus Podcast


Obtain 10% discount


Special offer 50% off

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
   
Rob Barnett
Senior Editor
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
   Vacant
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Support us financially by purchasing this from
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Orchestral Works - Vol. 1
La valse (1920) [12:14]
Le tombeau de Couperin (1914-17) [17:48]
Alborada del gracioso (1905/18) [7:48]*
Rapsodie espagnole (1907-8) [16:00]*
Boléro (1928) [15:19]*
Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart des SWR/Stéphane Denève
rec. Liederhalle Stuttgart, Beethovensaal, October and *December 2012
HÄNSSLER CLASSIC 93.305 [69:34]

Stéphane Denève takes a fresh, distinctive approach to Ravel. He's willing to explore the interpretive possibilities of restrained dynamics: in Le tombeau de Couperin, for example, he sustains a brooding mystery in the minore section of the Menuet. He also encourages his wind soloists to play with a fair amount of rubato. A third trait, that of underlining detached articulations in brief motifs, comes into play too infrequently to be more than a finicky distraction.
 
That said, it happens that the best of these performances, that of La valse, isn't marked by these particular niceties. Here, Denève scores in the clarity he brings to the busy orchestral textures: one rarely hears so much of what is going on. At the same time, he invests the music with a nice surge, and treats the more lightly scored passages with some delicacy.
 
The rubato phrasing comes most strongly into play in Boléro, in which the soloists flexibly weave their various themes around a strict pulse in the accompanying parts. There's an awkward moment or two, but, most of the time, this approach works, even where Denève allows an unusual amount of latitude, as when the horn solo incorporates an actual "blue note". The conductor also acknowledges the standard colouristic effects, capturing the organ-like effect, for example, in the episode for horn and two piccolos.
 
Rapsodie espagnole and Alborada del gracioso go well, even if neither rises markedly above the norm. In the Rapsodie, the Prélude emerges in a hushed pianissimo, the full-orchestra punctuations cushioned rather than aggressive. The Habañera, while rhythmically firm, goes with a nice languor, which returns in the slower sections of the lively concluding Feria. The outer sections of the Alborada del gracioso are buoyant and splashy; the middle section, save for a full-bodied bassoon solo, is conventional.
 
I feel churlish criticizing Le tombeau de Couperin, because the best parts of it are special. Denève holds down the dynamics at the start, lending the music a sense of anticipation along with the customary brilliance, and I've already mentioned the mystery of the Menuet. Unfortunately, he doesn't solve the longer, comparatively knotty Forlane. It begins liltingly enough, but the "B" section loses some momentum, as well as its sense of direction, and the coda starts to feel endless.
 
I was surprised by how stylishly this German ensemble played Ravel, though I probably shouldn't have been: German radio orchestras, after all, have to be adept in a widely varied repertoire ranging from Baroque to contemporary music. The string ensemble has a lovely sheen, and the wind solos are liquid and supple: a breathy, diffuse principal flute in the low range bothered me in the Rigaudon of Le tombeau, but not at the start of Boléro.
 
Hänssler's designation, "Vol. 1", suggests that this is the start of a planned series. It's worth watching for — further installments shouldn't be generic, at least.
 
Stephen Francis Vasta
Stephen Francis Vasta is a New York-based conductor, coach, and journalist.