The French connection

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Ravel• Delage • Dutilleux
LABELS: LSO Live
ALBUM TITLE: Ravel
WORKS: rin; Daphnis et Chloé – Suite No. 2; Dutilleux: L’arbre des songes; Métaboles; Delage: Quatre poèmes hindousrin; Daphnis et Chloé – Suite No. 2; Dutilleux: L’arbre des songes; Métaboles; Delage: Quatre poèmes hindous
PERFORMER: Julia Bullock (soprano), Leonidas Kavakos (violin); London Symphony Orchestra/Simon Rattle
CATALOGUE NO: LSO3038

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How good to know that Rattle will be conducting concerts like this for the foreseeable future, and if the audience’s final acclamation didn’t actually raise the roof, it was surely not for want of trying.

My only cavil is that the box bears the name Ravel in large capitals, whereas the concert in January 2016 formed part of the international celebrations of Henri Dutilleux’s centenary – not that he would have supported or even condoned my complaint: as Simon Rattle says in a most moving interview, it’s Ravel rather than Debussy that lies behind Dutilleux’s richly glittering orchestral sound. Not the least factor in the obvious rapport between Rattle and the LSO is that a number of the players were with him years ago in the National Youth Orchestra, go to the pub with him and have children who also play for him. In seeing as well as hearing this concert, what comes over is Rattle’s love for the music and the orchestra’s wholehearted response: it all looks so terribly easy, though of course it’s anything but.

Which is not to say that drama and tension are downplayed. Even in Le tombeau de Couperin, which can in unfeeling hands be thrown off as merely a piece of neo-classical bric-à-brac, Rattle explores its mysterious corners with the softest, most ethereal sounds from the string section. The French first oboist succeeds completely in his aim, as stated in his own interview, to forget that his part is a regular component of oboe competitions: his tone and eloquent phrasing will stay with me for a long time. Add mesmerising performances of the two Dutilleux works and the Daphnis Second Suite and a sensitive one of the Delage songs, and this recording is an outright winner.

Roger Nichols

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