Ravel - Daphnis & Chloe: complete ballet
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Label: Harmonia Mundi
Cat No: HMM905280
Number of Discs: 1
Release Date: 31st March 2017
ArtistsMarion Ralincourt (flute)
The orchestral forces are the largest Ravel ever employed and he adds a mixed chorus that sometimes hums and sometimes sings. As we have come to expect, François-Xavier Roth, in his début for Harmonia Mundi, has gone through Ravel's much-amended score with a fine-tooth comb and subsequently showed himself capable, in a ‘historically informed’ performance, of reproducing with the musicians of Les Siècles all the transparency and stylistic precision one could wish for in Ravel’s masterpiece.
"Daphnis et Chloé is part of the large-scale project we embarked on with Les Siècles in 2009: the odyssey of the Ballets Russes. To celebrate the centenary of that incredible artistic adventure, we wanted to reconstruct the Parisian orchestra that premiered these works in order to restore their original colours... As with each work of the Ballets Russes that we’ve played so far, we noticed just how remarkably the instruments of Ravel’s time, those French-built instruments typical of the early twentieth century, do justice to this music and make it meaningful!" - François-Xavier Roth
1Maurice Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé, M. 57, Acte I, Première partie - Introduction
2Maurice Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé, M. 57, Acte I, Première partie - Danse religieuse
3Maurice Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé, M. 57, Acte I, Première partie - Vif, Danse générale
4Maurice Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé, M. 57, Acte I, Première partie - Danse grotesque de Dorcon, Scène
5Maurice Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé, M. 57, Acte I, Première partie - Danse légère et gracieuse de Daphnis
6Maurice Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé, M. 57, Acte I, Première partie - Lent [devant le groupe radieux que forment Daphnis et Chloé enlacés]
7Maurice Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé, M. 57, Acte I, Première partie - Danse de Lycéion
8Maurice Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé, M. 57, Acte I, Première partie - Scène [Les Pirates]
9Maurice Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé, M. 57, Acte I, Première partie - Nocturne [Une lumière irréelle enveloppe le paysage]
10Maurice Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé, M. 57, Acte I, Première partie - Danse lente et mystérieuse des Nymphes
11Maurice Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé, M. 57, Acte I, Première partie - Interlude
12Maurice Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé, M. 57, Acte I, Deuxième partie - Introduction, Danse guerrière
13Maurice Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé, M. 57, Acte I, Deuxième partie - Danse suppliante de Chloé
14Maurice Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé, M. 57, Acte I, Deuxième partie - Lent [Soudain l'atmosphère semble chargée d'éléments insolites]
15Maurice Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé, M. 57, Acte I, Troisième partie - Lever du jour, Scène
16Maurice Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé, M. 57, Acte I, Troisième partie - Pantomime [Daphnis & Chloé miment l'aventure de Pan et de Syrinx]
17Maurice Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé, M. 57, Acte I, Troisième partie - Très lent [Chloé figure par sa danse les accents de la flûte]
18Maurice Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé, M. 57, Acte I, Troisième partie - Chloé tombe dans les bras de Daphnis
19Maurice Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé, M. 57, Acte I, Troisième partie - Animé, Danse générale
Roth and Ravel expert Jean-François Monnard went through the score afresh, weeding out some tenacious printing errors over a century after the works première. There are no big surprises, but the beauty and transparency of this account, especially in the more lyrical dance episodes and also in the bacchanal-like closing Danse générale, place this recording in a select band of modern recordings to set alongside such classics as Monteux (with the LSO) and Munch (Boston Symphony Orchestra). At moments, there are even hints of a Munch-like élan, if not sheer abandon. But the character of the music throughout, from the gently erotic dances to the raw humour of Dorcon’s Danse grotesque and the thrill of the pirates’ Danse guerrière, is exceptionally vivid. There is little need to consult a synopsis when the tone-painting and realisation is this tangible, and the supernatural moments (for example when the spirits of Pan intervene to rescue Chloé, track 16) have a spine-tingling immediacy.
The instrumental playing throughout is pure joy, not least the principal flute of Marion Ralincourt, and the truly French horns led by Fabien Norbert. Lower woodwind may lack the sheer pungency of Cluytens’s famous account with the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra, but the timbres of the instruments will still be startlingly refreshing for most listeners. So, too, will the 32-voice chorus, somewhat smaller than on most other recordings, and recorded fairly close (only just ‘behind the scene’ in many cases), adding an unexpectedly human element to this mythical tale. The emotional pain of the voices-only Interlude following Chloé’s abduction (track 11) has rarely been as perfectly captured.
Above all, Roth and his players succeed more than any of the competition in recapturing Ravel’s own vision of ancient Greece, which assuredly owed more to French artists of the late 18th century than to choreographer Michel Fokine’s more authentically classical view based on Longus’s original romance. It was a vision that made the genesis of this ‘symphonie chorégraphique’ more than usually turbulent for the composer, and he would surely be delighted with this performance.
Thankfully, there is no hint of audience noise, nor indeed of the apparently patchwork nature of the recording (taken from several performances). The sound is pleasingly immediate, the presentation first-class. Those who have been following Les Siècles’ traversal of the early 20th-century Ballets russes repertoire will snap this up without hesitation; so should others, for among modern accounts and even alongside the classics mentioned above it is utterly distinctive, ravishingly beautiful, and ardently compelling.
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