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CD Review

Maurice Ravel

Orchestral Works, Volume 2

  • Ma mère l'Oye
  • Une barque sur l'océan
  • Menuet antique
  • Pavane pour une infante défunte
  • Shéhérazade, Ouverture de féerie
  • Fanfare por l'éventail de Jeanne
Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra Stuttgart/Stéphane Denève
Hänssler Classic 93.325 66:20
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Stéphane Denève has always done French music very well, regardless of who he records with. French music from Stuttgart is not a sure bet, even in these days of homogenized musical style, but credit the conductor with making this as idiomatic as possible. This is an excellent disc, made all the more enticing by the unusual rarities on display. Hänssler captures all of this music very beautifully, with the harps particularly well spotlighted.

German orchestras are not really known for color or atmosphere. But Stéphane Denève – having already proven that he could make the Scottish play Debussy – now works his magic on his Stuttgart forces. There is a great attention to color and detail that recalls the very best French performances. Ma mère l'Oye is the major work here, and sounds absolutely glorious. The winds are sensual and the strings are luxuriant. The brass are assertive but never lacking in warmth. Unlike Leonard Slatkin's dull Lyon efforts on Naxos 8.572887 (with a French orchestra, no less) there is no question that these are excellent performances all, and they are also far more naturally captured.

I have not heard Volume One, but I don't actually need to. That disc contains all the usual Ravel suspects, and I'm not exactly wanting for another disc of those. On the other hand, this current album fills a niche in my Ravel collection from a most unexpected source. Should you require another Boléro, by all means pick up the prior disc. But I suspect that many collectors will find more value here, as it contains works that are harder to find.

Copyright © 2014, Brian Wigman