Ravel

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Ravel
LABELS: Erato
ALBUM TITLE: Ravel • Rachmaninov
WORKS: Daphnis et Chloé (complete ballet); La valse
PERFORMER: Orchestre et Choeurs de l’Opéra national de Paris/Philippe Jordan
CATALOGUE NO: 2564616684

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Philippe Jordan has clearly put much thought into his interpretation of Daphnis et Chloé, further refined through several staged performances. Part 1’s ‘Danse religieuse’ is animated and purposeful rather than the usual hedonistic wallow. The famous flute solo in Part 3 may seem exceptionally slow, but sure enough the score is marked ‘Très lent’. And I don’t think I’ve heard the dances by Dorcon and Daphnis, where they compete for the affection of Chloé, so effectively characterised: Daphnis’s in particular is genuinely ‘légère et gracieuse’ – light-footed with feline grace. After the final orgiastic Bacchanale, La valse makes an apt coupling, Jordan and his orchestra ideally combining lusciousness with vicious menace.

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All that said, I was not quite as carried away by this Daphnis as I have been by Pierre Boulez’s Berlin Philharmonic recording which also includes La valse (on DG). Boulez admittedly makes rather less of Dorcon and Daphnis’s character dances; but while Jordan’s flute ‘solo’ (which in fact neatly dovetails contributions by piccolo and alto flute) sounds over-deliberate and self-conscious, Boulez’s players phrase with apparent spontaneity within Ravel’s slow tempo. Boulez also has the edge when it comes to drama and sheer excitement: witness his characterisation of the young girls – feisty rather than merely decorous – or the furious pace and barbaric edge of his pirates. And Jordan’s choir, though characterful, is not at the superlative level of Boulez’s, going marginally flat in Part 2’s demanding a cappella introduction. Daniel Jaffé