ALBUM TITLE: Bartók, Ravel
WORKS: Concerto for Orchestra; The Miraculous Mandarin – concert suite; Daphnis et Chloé – Suite No. 2
PERFORMER: Bavarian Radio SO/Mariss Jansons
CATALOGUE NO: 88697123632
Conductor Mariss Jansons’s partnership with the Bavarian Radio orchestras has been extremely fruitful, and this recording of performances taken from concerts in 2004 and 2007 clearly captures the lively spirits of these occasions. As such, it has the advantages, but also some of the disadvantages of live recordings. The strings, for instance, make a marvellous sound, but it tends to be at the expense of definition. In the ‘Elegia’ of Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra the violins have all the bite of an impassioned goldfish, while, in the ‘Finale’ they are holding on by their fingernails, or at least they would be if they were not scurrying furiously trying to keep up with the tremendous pace set by Jansons; there is a palpable sense of breathless excitement, but things also get distinctly messy at times. Iván Fischer (Philips) has just as much exhilaration and passion with greater precision, while Fritz Reiner’s classic version (Living Stereo) is still unsurpassed, and, especially on SACD, belies its age with demonstration class sound that matches the newcomer.
The concert suites from The Miraculous Mandarin and Daphnis et Chloé tell much the same story as the Concerto for Orchestra. The Ravel sounds marvellously lush in places, but the counterpoint in the Daybreak scene is uncertain, while the transitions need more space. But more fundamentally, perhaps, with numerous other fine versions to choose from, why would anyone want to hear it these days shorn of the wordless chorus? As a document of otherwise ephemeral events, this rendition is a marvellous, if occasionally flawed, ride.