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CD Review

Maurice Ravel

Naxos 8.573545

Orchestral Works - 4

  • Daphnis et Chloé (complete ballet) *
  • Une Barque sur l'océan
* Spirito (Chorus Master - Nicole Corti)
Orchestre National de Lyon/Leonard Slatkin
Naxos 8.573545 65:43
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For Volume 4 of his Ravel cycle on Naxos Leonard Slatkin offers a splendid performance of Ravel's masterful ballet, Daphnis et Chloé. This is, of course, the complete work, not the suites derived from it. I have previously expressed admiration for Slatkin's Saint-Saëns with the same orchestra, but I haven't been following his Ravel series and I can now surmise that I may be guilty of a major oversight, because if I can judge from this volume alone, the other three in the series are very likely quite fine efforts.

Slatkin and the Lyon players capture thoroughly all the elements that make up the prismatic score to Daphnis et Chloé – its exoticism, its ethereality and mystery, its suave grandeur, and its elfin playfulness. Those familiar with the music are aware of its lush sonorities, the shimmering orchestral effects, the mesmerizing wordless vocalizing by the chorus and Ravel's deft sense for contrast and orchestral color. It's all here in this performance and in very vivid sonics, though I do find that the percussion can at times sound a little boomy. But that's my only complaint, minor as it is.

The Danse religieuse has rarely come across with such luxuriance and warmth as here; the eerie and mysterious character of Danse lente et mystérieuse des Nymphes is played with a deft sense for understatement, for subtlety; and the colorful and varied music in Danse guerriere features all the drive and rhythmic excitement you could want and never descends into bombast, as can happen in lesser performances. Every number here comes across, it seems, with just the right spirit. This is an excellent effort all around, plain and simple.

As suggested above, the orchestra plays splendidly, and the chorus, Spirito, sing with, well, spirit. There is much formidable competition in Daphnis from the likes of Martinon, Maazel, Dutoit and many others, but this entry by Slatkin can easily take its place among the finer versions of the complete ballet. The filler work here is Ravel's Une Barque sur l'océan, an orchestral version of the composer's popular piano piece. The performance is also quite fine and certainly adds to the appeal of this CD. Keith Anderson, as usual, offers very informative and highly detailed album notes. Strongly recommended.

Copyright © 2017, Robert Cummings