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Ravel: La Valse etc (Royal Stockholm Phil/Oramo)

Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra/Sakari Oramo (BIS)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Le Tombeau de Couperin (complete, orch. Hesketh); La valse; Alborada del gracioso; Une barque sur l’océan; Menuet antique; Pavane pour une infante défunte
Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra/Sakari Oramo
BIS BIS-2438 (CD/SACD)   68:43 mins


Hard on the heels of John Wilson’s fine Ravel orchestral music album for Chandos comes this equally impressive and brilliantly recorded programme from Sakari Oramo and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic. Both conductors offer viscerally exciting performances of La valse, but I find Oramo’s interpretation probes deeper into the music’s sinister subtext, driving home the final terrifying descent into chaos with greater ferocity. Honours are more evenly divided in the Pavane, the other piece common to both discs. Here Wilson draws some ravishingly beautiful sounds from his orchestral players in contrast to Oramo’s more restrained textures.

His linear approach works particularly well in Le Tombeau de Couperin. Here, unusually, it’s performed in the sequence of movements as originally conceived for Ravel’s piano version, and features marvellously idiomatic orchestrations of the ‘Fugue’ and ‘Toccata’ by Kenneth Hesketh. The Royal Stockholm Philharmonic negotiates the tricky rippling figurations of the ‘Prélude’ and the fleet-of-foot articulation of the ‘Rigaudon’ with remarkable clarity, but the ‘Forlane’ seems a little breathless and lacking in elegance.

Une barque sur l’océan is given a superbly controlled and atmospheric performance, vividly conveying the physical sensations of standing aboard a ship, breathing in the sea air and experiencing the unpredictable thrill of the crashing waves. There’s lots of energy and excitement, too, in Alborada del gracioso, but Oramo doesn’t quite capture the sultry warmth of its slower middle section.

Erik Levi

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