Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé; Pavane pour une infante défunte; Boléro

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Ravel
LABELS: LSO Live
WORKS: Daphnis et Chloé; Pavane pour une infante défunte; Boléro
PERFORMER: LSO & Chorus/Valery Gergiev
CATALOGUE NO: LSO 0693

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Nearly a century after its first production, Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé frustratingly remains a rarity on stage. The exceptional demands of this colourful and exhilarating score, which calls not only for substantial wind and percussion sections, but also a sizeable off-stage chorus, make it a natural showpiece for orchestras.

Nonetheless, as with Stravinsky’s early ballets, it benefits from remembering both that it is a dramatic work for dancing.The LSO has a long history with the piece, including the classic 1959 recording with Pierre Monteux, and this new disc, from performances fifty years later, makes clear that the work is in the orchestra’s blood. Valery Gergiev’s combination of attention to detail and grasp of long-term architecture allied to a splendid surround sound recording make this a very enticing prospect.

The strings sweep and swoon magnificently, the numerous woodwind solos are rarely less than sublime, while the brass manage both statuesque nobility in the panoramic vistas, and bracing punch in the general dances, ably supported by crackling percussion.

The chorus negotiates the perilous unaccompanied passage more or less unscathed, but they also make a little too much impact at this point. Rather than being ‘very distant’, the sound wafting in dreamlike waves, their presence, and awareness of the beat, is all-too-apparent. Elsewhere, Gergiev occasionally allows the music to become a little foursquare, but the set-pieces are delivered with devastating panache.

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A poignant if slightly indulgent Pavane pour une infante défunte, and superbly paced and controlled Boléro complete a generously programmed disc. Christopher Dingle