Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé and other orchestral works conducted by Gustavo Gimeno

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Ravel
LABELS: PentaTone
ALBUM TITLE: Ravel
WORKS: Daphnis et Chloé; Une barque sur l’océan; Pavane pour une infante défunte
PERFORMER: Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg; WDR Rundfunkchor Koln/Gustavo Gimeno
CATALOGUE NO: PTC 5186 652 (hybrid CD-SACD)

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Now and then I think every music critic is faced with a disc that makes us wonder whether, by scratching away at Beckmesserish detail, we aren’t missing the bigger picture. The disc under review here contains so much that is right: elegant phrasing, excellent woodwind, no ugly over-emphases distorting the rhythm and, in Daphnis, a splendidly lumpish Dorcon and truly terrifying pirates. I also have to face the fact that, in the concert hall, I would probably not have registered all the faulty details I found score in hand. But then a disc is, ideally, for repeated listening; not only that but there are, of course, for the Ravel repertoire a large number of other recordings where both the heart and the head of the interpretation are in line with the score.

So, with something of a heavy heart, I append some scratchings that I really can’t ignore. In the Pavane the bass of the second chord is barely audible, so Ravel’s pseudo-Baroque foundation is immediately undermined, and the two horns at letter B are too loud. In Une barque what should be the dangerous chromatic octaves in the bass at fig. 16 are much too quiet, and in the final bars the tiny but crucial piccolo figure is obscured by the first flute. And there are more inaccuracies in Daphnis, not least an over-enthusiastic wind machinist – no doubt they don’t get that many opportunities to ply their trade, but even so…

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Roger Nichols