Sunday 24 January 2016

Unmissable LSO Live recordings by Valery Gergiev and the LSO of Ravel’s complete ballet score for Daphnis et Chloé, which comes with a bonus DVD

Maurice Ravel’s (1875-1937) ballet Daphnis et Chloé opened at the Théâtre du Châtelet on the 8th June 1912 with choreography by Fokin, sets and costumes by Bakst, Nijinsky and Karsavina in the title roles and Pierre Monteux conducting. One can only envy those present at this premiere.

The scenario was adapted by Michel Fokine from a romance by the Greek writer Longus, thought to date from around the 2nd century AD and concerns the love between the goatherd Daphnis and the shepherdess Chloé.

Ravel extracted music from the ballet to make two orchestral suites but on a new release from LSO Live Valery Gergiev and the London Symphony Orchestra give a live performance of the complete ballet music, coupled with Ravel’s  Pavane pour une infante défunte and Boléro.

plus bonus DVD
There is a remarkably hushed and atmospheric opening Introduction to Daphnis et Chloé enhanced by the wide ranging SACD recording. The music slowly rises in dynamics until orchestra and chorus sound out in all their glory. There is a beautifully swaying ebb and flow with Gergiev finding a controlled steady pulse for some impressive climaxes in the Danse Religieuse.

Jes jeunes filles attirent Daphnis - Danse Générale brings some very fine rhythmically crisp phrases and a fine sway to the dance passages that look forward to La Valse.  Danse grotesque de Dorcon is wonderfully pointed up with, surely, some Stravinskian touches and some terrific braying brass.

Danse légère et gracieuse de Daphnis has an enchanting mystery and elusiveness that is really appealing with lovely phrasing and shaping, surging to a lovely peak with chorus. The Lycenion danse brings fine woodwind passages with such light and fleet instrumental detail as well as much drama in the later Les pirates.

Gergiev draws some especially fine, hushed orchestral playing as Une lumière irréelle enveloppe le paysage arrives out of which a solitary flute emerges. There are some quite exquisite sounds before the music picks up rhythmically for the Danse lente et mystérieuse where Gergiev shows a real balletic sympathy where one can imagine the dancers, something one would expect from the artistic director of the Mariinsky Theatre.

Gergiev brings a real sense of restrained power before leading into
Daphnis se prosterne suppliant, where the fine LSO chorus bring a lovely texture to the opening with finely controlled climaxes, brass sounding out over the choir as the music rises to a terrific peak. The orchestra take the music quickly ahead through Voix, très lontaines - Animé et très rude - Bryaxis ordonne d'amener la captive with such intoxicatingly accurate playing, building some terrific dynamic textures, lovely lightness of texture in the woodwind passages and a wonderful display of swirling woodwind as the music builds to a fine pitch, the choir entering, adding magnificently to the tension and pulse.

Danse suppliante de Chloé brings a sultry dance, leisurely and free, again with Gergiev’s sudden little surges finely done. We move through Bryaxis veit l'entraîner - L'ombre de Pân apparaît where this conductor creates a lovely lilt, later full of mystery and lovely detail. There is crisp percussion towards the end, which achieves an impressive gravitas and weight.

With Lever du jour - Daphnis cherche pour Chloé et il rêve d'elle - Daphnis et Chloé miment l'aventure de Pan et de Syrinx, perhaps the best known sections of this ballet score, Gergiev achieves a quite spectacularly fine orchestral texture and detail as the sun rises with woodwind chirruping. The orchestra weave some quite lovely passages through which woodwind appear, the chorus subtly blended within the orchestral tapestry. Gergiev’s approach, gently controlling and pacing the rise of the music, allows for some fine climaxes before achieving a most wonderful climax for orchestra and choir.

Chloé réapparaît brings a beautifully played flute solo over a hushed orchestra. Later flute, harp and orchestra bring some terrific passages with finely judged surges.

There are more fine rhythmic passages as the music speeds forward in Animé - Danse Générale. The music fairly bubbles and sparkles as it bounds along. As we move through Danse De Daphnis et Chloé - Danse de Dorcon - Danse finale (Bacchanale) there are some meaty dynamic outbursts with Gergiev revealing all of Ravel’s wonderful orchestral texture and detail. He develops a real sense of forward moving intensity as the music increases in speed to those choral and orchestral surges of drama with a truly exciting, swirling coda.

This is a very balletic performance full of swirling atmosphere and finely pointed up rhythms and colours. Applause is excised and the recording made live in September 2009 is extremely good, though with a wide dynamic range in the SACD layer one has to find the right volume.
Recorded with Boléro in December 2009,  Pavane pour une infante défunte
makes an ideal contrast to Daphnis et Chloé with Gergiev revealing a strangely antiquarian feel to this piece. Various woodwind again bring some fine moments with the LSO strings providing some particularly lovely gentle passages, full of regret and nostalgia. Later flute and strings bring a quite lovely central section, shot through with gentle brass and harp. A wonderful performance.

Hushed side drum and pizzicato violins bring the opening of Boléro before a flute weaves its way forward, Gergiev developing and adding to the orchestral textures with the most pure clarity. So many LSO members bring fine individual instrumental textures that are needed to lift this work. As expected, Gergiev paces this music to perfection. He develops a really inexorable momentum with great rhythmic control. One can delight in the sheer beauty of the instrumentation which receives a really light touch from these players who really excel as they add subtle bluesy elements. Gergiev highlights some unusual textures that I hadn’t appreciated before. Soon there are wonderful whooping trombone phrases before all is topped off with a brilliant climax.

In the right hands this can be a truly impressive and captivating exercise in orchestration.

Again these live Barbican performances are extremely well recorded. Applause is excised. There are excellent booklet notes.

As a bonus, LSO Live provide a DVD of Gergiev and the orchestra’s performance of
Boléro which is finely produced with many close ups of the players. There is excellent picture quality and very good audio. 

If you’re looking for this repertoire then this is unmissable 

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