Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts Ravel

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COMPOSERS: Ravel
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Daphnis et Chloé Suite No. 2; Valses nobles et sentimentales; La valse; Ma mère l’oye
PERFORMER: Rotterdam PO/Yannick Nézet-Séguin
CATALOGUE NO: EMI 966 3422

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Few composers can show-off an orchestra as well as Ravel. All the pieces here have links with dance, which provides a clear focus, and yet, is it really wise to have the Valses nobles et sentimentales immediately followed by La valse? The two works may shed light on each other as quite different facets of the composer’s enduring fascination with the waltz, but, even in Boléro, Ravel was acutely aware of the need for contrast.

In terms of playing, there is much to admire. Yannick Nézet-Séguin elicits disciplined and virtuosic playing from the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, with the superb (for CD) recording enabling all sorts of details to be heard in Daphnis et Chloé. The muted string playing in La valse is delicious, with veiled tone and sighing portamentos.

In fact, there are plenty of exquisite moments from every corner of the orchestra, but this somehow adds up to less than the sum of its parts. It is as if Ravel’s rich colours are being painted by numbers. The final pages of Ma mère l’oye do not quite raise the hairs on the back of the neck as Rattle does in both of his accounts (EMI), and nothing here quite has the thrill or grace of Dutoit’s classic recordings (Decca).

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As for Daphnis, while Ravel indicates that the chorus can be omitted, that does not mean that he wanted it to be. Yes, the piece still works, but such a rich cake surely needs the icing on the top. Christopher Dingle