COMPOSERS: Maurice Ravel
ALBUM TITLE: Ravel Orchestral Works • 1
WORKS: Alborada del gracioso; Pavane pour une infante défunte; Rapsodie espagnole; Pièce en forme de habanera; Shérérazade – Ouverture de féerie; Menuet antique’ Boléro
PERFORMER: Orchestre National de Lyon/Leonard Slatkin
CATALOGUE NO: 8572887
Leonard Slatkin draws a vivid sound from the Lyon players, with a wide range of dynamics and colours. No one could do more for the early Shéhérazade overture, where Ravel’s interest in orchestral timbres is paramount, ahead of any concerns for structure – one critic’s advice, that Ravel should pay more attention to Beethoven, has often been ridiculed, but was not that wide of the mark. Boléro too comes off well, with no accelerando from the commendably sedate opening tempo.
My complaints are over details. There’s a clumsy start to the Pavane (horn and bassoon not together), and the minor middle section picks up speed unnecessarily, leading to an ugly bump when the opening theme returns. In the score of the Rapsodie espagnole, the first movement is followed by the marking ‘attacca’: does a four-second pause count as that? And certainly someone should have noticed that at the end of the second movement the piccolo ends on an F natural, instead of the A marked, clashing with the final A major chord. Lastly, in the central bassoon solo of Alborada, the cymbal generates some very unfortunate discordant harmonics. Let’s hope more care is taken as the series progresses.