Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé (complete); Pavane pour une infante défunte

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Ravel
LABELS: BIS
WORKS: Daphnis et Chloé (complete); Pavane pour une infante défunte
PERFORMER: Netherlands Radio Choir; Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra/ Yannick Nézet-Séguin
CATALOGUE NO: BIS-1850 (hybrid CD/SACD)

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This splendid disc proves again that with Ravel’s orchestral music you go pretty much all the way just by following the instructions on the packet. In these performances of Daphnis et Chloé and the Pavane, Yannick Nézet-Séguin is scrupulous to an unusual degree in obeying the composer’s markings, and especially the little crescendo bursts which might seem, on paper, to be in danger of breaking up the continuity of phrases, but which in practice add life and energy to them. He also believes in the dynamic markings – so beware of turning the volume smartly up immediately after the ppp opening A on double basses and timpani! And, praise be, he doesn’t indulge in any of the interference with tempos that still mars too many Ravel recordings: at the most, he allows the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra to take a brief collective breath before the high point of climaxes.

The playing throughout is of the highest class, from the first horn’s apparently relaxed top Fs (Martin van de Merwe may be going purple in the face, but there’s no audible sign of it) to the vibrato-free flutes that Ravel himself wrote for, the clarinets’ piano playing in the furiously fast ‘Danse générale’, and the chorus’s impeccable tuning in their a cappella section. The Pavane is tender, elegant and unforced. One correction to the booklet notes: the first performance of this orchestral version was given by Henry Wood in Manchester on 27 February 1911.

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Roger Nichols