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REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers

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Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Daphnis et Chloé [56:03]
La valse [12:30]
Orchestra and Choirs of the Paris National Opera/Philippe Jordan
rec. 16-17, 20 October 2014, Grand Salle, Opéra Bastille, Paris
ERATO 2564 616684 [68:33]

This is a very good new performance of Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé (the complete ballet) and a sort of artistic statement of purpose for Philippe Jordan and the Paris National Opera Orchestra and Chorus. From the characterful playing of the French horn in the opening scene, to the extremely fine encore of La valse, there’s a lot to admire on this CD. Jordan gently nudges along some of the less eventful passages in Daphnis. Speaking of which the handful of numbers surrounding the wordless choir interlude and pirate dance are my least favorite parts of the ballet but here they do not lag or become dull.

Everyone will have treasured recordings of this piece. Pierre Monteux conducted the world premiere performance, and his stereo recording with the London Symphony Orchestra on Decca is a frequent and meritorious recommendation (review). Another Pierre, Boulez, produced a total winner with the Berlin Philharmonic, in one of the best-engineered albums I own. It's the same coupling as the present disc too and dates from 1995. This new Erato recording may not rise to quite those heights, but it is straightforward, very well-played and well-engineered too. It’s one of the best of recent times and keeps good company alongside the Chicago Symphony recording with Bernard Haitink on CSO Resound which I reviewed in 2009. I’m less keen on Rotterdam PO/Nézet-Séguin on Bis (review), LSO/Gergiev (LSO Live not reviewed here but I see that Colin Clarke found their concert performance missing 'pure sensuality''), Bordeaux/Petitgirard on Naxos 8 (review) or the boring Lyon/Märkl also on Naxos (8.570992) although not reviewed here as far as I can see.

Still, Ravel’s orchestral works are the kind of thing I’m happy to own seven or eight different recordings of, for comparison and for the new insight each one brings. If you’re like me, this is a very recommendable disc. The La valse is especially exciting. Stay tuned, however, for Stéphane Denève will record the ballet soon.

Brian Reinhart



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