LABELS: RCA Red Seal High Performance
WORKS: Rapsodie espagnole; Alborada del gracioso; Ma mère l’oye Suite; Introduction and Allegro; Daphnis et Chloé Suite No. 2
PERFORMER: Chicago SO/Jean Martinon
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 63683 2 ADD Reissue (1964, 1968)
Wonderfully detailed, expansive and vital performances from Martinon’s five-year tenure in Chicago. It was an unsung time between Reiner’s and Solti’s conductorships, but it delivered some of the finest orchestral Ravel on record. Martinon, a composer himself, had played under Ravel’s baton and his characteristic combination of precision, intensity, breadth and rhythmic alertness particularly suits Ravel’s wide-spanning forms and sensual sound-palette.
Choicest is the Ma mère l’oye suite, direct and hugely expressive, while the Daphnis et Chloé suite has scintillating balance and climaxes all the more overwhelming for taking time. The two big Spanish evocations radiate brilliance and melodic power, though the Introduction and Allegro loses the point of orchestral-strength strings by putting the wind and harp too close. RCA’s bright, warm sound has a synthetic balance except in the more realistic Daphnis, made four years earlier. As bargain Ravel goes, with Dutoit’s mostly on special order, this is up among the best. Robert Maycock