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Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Valses nobles et sentimentales [17:03]
La Valse [15:29]
Daphnis et Chloé - Suite No. 1 [13:41]
Daphnis et Chloé - Suite No. 2 [20:09]
Boléro [18:00]
Lucerne Festival Orchestra/Riccardo Chailly
rec. live, August 2018, KKL Concert Hall, Lucerne, Switzerland
DVD Video Format 16:9 NTSC, Region: All. Sound PCM Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS Digital Surround 5.1. Reviewed in surround sound

The booklet note proclaims this programme as consisting of Ravel’s “only works for ballet,” although Mother Goose is absent. But everything else was written for or adapted for the dance, and it makes as seductive a programme from one composer as can be imagined. Valses nobles et sentimentales sets the standard from the outset, with an ingratiating dancing lilt but one that is never overstated – Chailly is a subtle and sensitive Ravelian. The LFO has some star players of course, and the second waltz brings in Jacques Zoon’s delectable flute playing – he is far from the only one to provide exquisite solos, but the programme gives him so many fine ones, climaxing with that in the Daphnis Suite No.2.

Valses nobles et sentimentales ends slowly and pp, of course, but there is no pause or applause before the rumbling double basses open La Valse. Chailly is clearly adding a sort of extra valse, but one that last nearly as long as the whole sequence that preceded it. Balanchine once did this for a production it seems, and it works up to a point. Of course it denies both works their independence and our recognition of their satisfyingly crafted form. I suspect the composer would have been furious therefore, but if you hate it, then at least La Valse is separately tracked. Both works are very beautifully played, which is the main thing. La Valse especially is enchanting, with a diaphanous string sound and some sensuous portamenti – Principal Viola Wolfram Christ contributes a particularly soupy slide for one of his close-ups. Chailly builds the momentum nicely up to the final climax and collapse, but never gets too frenetic. After all, this is still Ravel, dancing to disaster yes, but still dancing!

The two Daphnis Suites are also played without much pause in between them, but of course that is as it should be, since they are extracted from the same work. The playing is superbly polished, but the orchestral virtuosity is always in the service of the music, and Chailly’s ear for these complex textures is very acute. The Second Suite opens with a ravishing Lever du jour and closes with an exciting Danse générale, again kept on the metrical leash so that the cumulative power makes its effect. Of course that metrical leash in central to the conception of Bolero, and Chailly is strict but not really metronomic, as there is just enough room for the many solos to be phrased with a touch of individuality (often jazz inflected), and from such players why not? The DVD sound and picture are both very good, but not so high-end that the Blu-ray, which I have not seen, is necessarily redundant.

This is one of the two all-Ravel filmed performances known to me, alongside the Glyndebourne Ravel opera double bill, that are essential viewing for aficionados of the composer.

Roy Westbrook

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