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Maurice Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé
27 Dec 2007

RAVEL: Daphnis et Chloé

Although considered among Ravel’s finest works, Daphnis et Chloé may be known best through excerpts, particularly the second suite that the composer derived from his score.

Maurice Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé
(Complete Ballet in Three Parts)

Bordeaux Opera Chorus, Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine, Laurent Petitgirard, conductor.

Naxos 8.570075 [CD]

$7.99  Click to buy

Yet Ravel’s decision to create suites from the entire ballet should not be taken as any kind of preference for selected pieces of the work.With such an engaging ballet, a suite or any selection hardly suffices when it is possible to hear the music in its entirety, and the recent release of the entire ballet on Naxos is a fine way to enjoy it. Recorded at concerts from 3 January through 5 January 2006 at Franklin Hall, Bordeaux, the result is a fine release. While the Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine may not be as familiar an ensemble as the Boston Symphony, the Concertgebouw, and others, it delivers a fine performance of this score under the leadership of Laurent Petitgirard. Given the accessibility and price of the recording, it is a solid choice among recent recordings.

From the very introduction to Daphnis et Chloé, the orchestra demonstrates its comfort with the work, and this familiarity emerges consistently throughout the performance. Petitgirard brings out the character of each of the numbers in this score, while also maintaining a laudable dynamic pitch. The full sound required in some passages is never lacking and, at the same time, the more intimate moments are not lost within the ambience of the recording itself. Such is the case with the third number of the first part, “Daphnis s’approache tendrement de Chloé,” where the pensive, sometimes disjunct musical gestures create the intimate scene intended in the scenario. The more aggressive percussion elements occur at an appropriate sonic distance to reflect well the musical space Ravel created in the score. Likewise, the more passionate mood of the subsequent section, “Les rires s’interrompent,” seems natural andeffortless, with the inclusion of the choral textures notably tasteful and precise.

Petitgirard is solidly precise at the beginning of the second part, the section marked “Animé et rude,” and in this section, the sometimes impetuous rhythms remain fully under control to give the result a clarity that is sometimes lacking in live performances. The brass never overbalance the entire ensemble, with the timbres always clear. Solo passages emerge from the ensemble with ease, and when they must retreat into the texture, the ensemble works well. With tutti pieces, like the concluding “Bacchanale,” Petitgirard brings the score to a satisfactory conclusion, and those who want to sample the recording may wish to start at the final track to observe the solid exuberance it contains, and then return to the beginning of the work to appreciate the performance in its entirety.

The existing discography includes some fine recordings of Daphnis et Chloé by such conductors as Ansermet, Munch, Boulez, Haitink, and others, which give listeners some excellent choices. This recording, albeit new, is a performance that is worth exploring for the idiomatic reading the Petitgirard offers. Given the mastery of the score that he demonstrates in this recording, one would hope for other release of music by Ravel and other French masters from the Orchestre National Bordeaux under Petitgirard’s baton.

James L. Zychowicz

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