COMPOSERS: Maurice Ravel
ALBUM TITLE: Ravel
WORKS: Daphnis et Chloé; Une barque sur l’océan
PERFORMER: Spirito; Orchestre National de Lyon/Leonard Slatkin
CATALOGUE NO: 8.573545
As arguably Ravel’s greatest orchestral achievement, Daphnis et Chloé provides an acid test for any cycle of Ravel’s works. It is not simply the size of ensemble involved, including wordless off-stage chorus, but the delicate precision with which this master orchestrator deploys this resource. Perhaps mindful of this, Leonard Slatkin’s approach is more consistent in this fourth volume of his complete Ravel survey, and this is the most satisfying performance yet. The nuances of detail are there without distorting the flow of the whole. In the tricky unaccompanied choral passages Spirito is commendably secure, while the lower strings and brass of Orchestre National de Lyon are full of menace in the ‘Danse guerrière’.
The sound is very good for CD – a pity Naxos is not releasing this volume on Blu-Ray Audio – enabling the colours of Ravel’s score to shine. Nonetheless, although Slatkin provides a clear sense of the ballet’s architecture as a whole, there could be greater impetus (as distinct from speed) at key points, notably the final bachanalian ‘Danse générale’. Elsewhere, there is plenty of deft characterisation from the woodwind, but also a few hard lumps in the bubbling woodwind froth that opens part three’s sunrise.
A deliciously languid performance of Ravel’s orchestration of Une barque sur l’océan is a welcome filler. Why, though, isn’t it placed as a prelude to Daphnis, rather than within a few seconds of the ballet’s resounding final chord, served like a low-fat yoghurt after a grand evening’s feast of rich food?