Ravel • Satie • Fauré
This is a better than average collection of popular French fare, with an underlying nostalgia for the 17th and 18th centuries providing coherence. Only Satie’s Gymnopédies, which are inspired instead by ancient Greece, deviate from this path (and yet, they are the focus of the advertisements for this disc). Surely Ravel’s orchestration of Debussy’s Pavane (from Pour le piano) would have been a preferable work for inclusion in this collection? Together with Ravel’s Pavane pour une infante défunte, the Gymnopédies are also the least successful performances, with the orchestra wallowing in the sheer beauty of sound but neglecting the requirements of the broader structure. Elsewhere the music sparkles and the ebullience of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra proves to be irresistibly infectious. Attention to detail is meticulous, but it is the vitality of the performances, particularly Fauré’s Masques et bergamasques, which is particularly enduring. The sumptuous recording is, as such, excellent. Nevertheless, it is also a prime example of an aural experience which could never be reproduced in any concert hall. The result, which in this case is distinctly generous to the strings, may be pleasing to the ears, but is it healthy to engender false expectations?