Ravel: Daphnis et Chloe (CD review)

Complete Ballet in Three Parts. Laurent Petitgirard, Bordeaux Opera Chorus, Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine. Naxos 8.570075.

There is no doubt that Naxos produces more new recordings than any other record company, at least three or more of which I have the opportunity to hear and review each month. Most of them are competent in terms of sound and performance, but once in a while a disc stands out in one category or the other. Such is the case with this 2006 recording of Ravel's Daphnis et Chloe ballet in terms of sound.

Not that there is anything wrong with the performance. Petitgirard does a splendid job conveying the varying emotional subtleties of this pastoral Greek tale. It's just that the Naxos audio engineers have captured its sound with such a wide frequency response and such an ample dynamic range that the sonics tend to overshadow the musical interpretation. In fact, this is a clear case where a little of something, like the dynamics, may go a long way. Things start off very softly, so you can't blame the listener for wanting to turn up the volume, which would be a mistake because a few moments later the listener will be blown from his seat.

Be that as it may, the Naxos disc's main problem is that its price point, $8.99 MSRP, comes into conflict with Pierre Monteux's celebrated 1959 recording (Decca), Charles Munch's Boston account from around the same era (RCA), and Charles Dutoit's newer digital rendering (Decca), all of them now available on mid-priced releases for about $8.98-$11.98 suggested retail. Back in the days when Naxos sold for $5.99 or even $6.99, they were terrific, bargain values, especially considering they were often discounted below five bucks. These days, they sell new for close to the same cost as most mid-priced discs, and, frankly, the competition in basic repertoire items like this one is murder.

Not to take anything away from Petitgirard, but Monteux, Munch, and Dutoit are marginally more lyrical, more passionate, more exciting, and more atmospheric than he is, and they are also well recorded in their own way. So, there are always choices


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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

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Readers with polite, courteous, helpful letters may send them to pucciojj@gmail.com.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa