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Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Le Tombeau de Couperin: Menuet (1919) [4:51]
Daphnis et Chloé: Suite No. 2 (Lever du jour (Daybreak) - Pantomime - Danse générale) (1909-1912) [15:47]
Pavane pour une infante défunte (1899) [6:52]
Ma Mère l'Oye - Suite (Pavane; Hop-o'-My-Thumb; Laideronnette; Conversations; Enchanted Garden) (1912) [16:23]
Rhapsody - Tzigane (1922-1924) [11:13]
Boléro (1928) [14:39]
Niki Vasilakis (violin)
Adelaide SO/David Stanhope (Tombeau)
Sydney SO/Willem Van Otterloo (Daphnis), Benjamin Northey (Mère), Stuart Challender (Boléro)
Melbourne SO/Jorge Mester (Pavane)
Tasmanian SO/Sebastian Lang-Lessing (Tzigane)
rec. Adelaide Town Hall, South Australia, July 2003 (Tombeau); live, Sydney Town Hall, 5 December 1973 (Daphnis); Robert Blackwood Hall, Monash University, February 1993 (Pavane); Eugene Goossens Hall, ABC, December 2009 (Mère); Federation Concert Hall, Hobart, November 2005 (Tzigane); Sydney Town Hall, February 1989 (Boléro)
ABC CLASSICS 481 4661 [60:11]

ABC Classics 100 disc series "1000 Years of Classical Music" here attains Vol. 75: The Modern Era. It's a Ravel collection drawn from the conductors and orchestras of Australia.

The series, aimed at starters, consistently uses modest, simple and effective design values and pitches at bargain price. It's the brainchild of Toby Chadd and Robert Patterson with the structure provided by the baroque, classical, romantic and modern eras.

The booklet - a 14-page model of its kind - gives you all the usual data plus a page of Fast Facts about each piece. More detail follows and this by a variety of writers. The notes for Boléro include a panel which sets the 1928 piece in the context of the politics, aviation, literature and medical science of its time. Pages 12 and 13 list all one hundred discs and the series is showcased with commentary on pages 14 and 15.

As with the other discs ABC here draw on their radio archives with source tapes dating from between 1973 and 2009; most from the 1990s and 2000s.

From Le Tombeau de Couperin we get just the Menuet but it is done with prepossessing coolness. Its appetising Gallic smoothness echoes the rather English sangfroid of Warlock's Capriol. So good is this that I am left wondering what David Stanhope (with Leslie Howard, a noted Grainger champion) made of the rest of the suite. Daphnis is represented by the famous suite No. 2, here played as a single track of approaching 16 minutes. It's the only live recording here and is an historic article in which the Sydney Symphony is conducted by Willem van Otterloo (1907-1978). Lever du jour is strikingly fast. With its highly pressurised sighs the suite is quite a special and intensely individual reading. The applause has been excised or wasn't there in the first place. The Pavane is in the hands of Jorge Mester - more familiar on another continent as conductor of the Louisville Orchestra. Here with the Melbourne Orchestra he presides over a so-so reading. The 17-minute suite Ma Mère L'Oye is in five movements. Benjamin Northey conducts the Sydney Orchestra. They surpass themselves in the finale and the aural decay in the hall is gloriously captured. Tzigane is played by Niki Vasilakis. It is an unusual piece and is not often heard. It's showy and often seems like an escapee from a slightly modernised and "gypsyfied" Symphonie Espagnole. Stuart Challender and the Sydney Symphony play the notorious Boléro in a natural concert-hall acoustic.

Highlights: a smoochy smooth Menuet, a special Daphnis suite and plenty of impact in the finale of the Ma Mère L'Oye suite. Good to hear Tzigane again although it's unusual Ravel.

The documentation is thoughtfully done. It's good to see music presented in a wider world context.

Enjoy the ups and downs of this varied Ravel package.

Rob Barnett



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