Ravel: Dapnis et Chloe, Suite No. 2 (CD review)

Also, Pavane pour une infante defunte; La Valse; Ma Mere l’Oye; Bolero. Paavo Jarvi, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Telarc CD-80601.

The music of Maurice Ravel is among the most poetic, imaginative, impressionistic ever written. It has the capacity to touch one’s soul as well as stir one’s blood. Unfortunately, while I found Telarc’s sound among the best afforded this composer, Maestro Jarvi’s interpretations left me largely unmoved.

Things begin with the Daphnis et Chloe Suite No. 2, which gets off to so quiet a start I wondered if my equipment was faulty. Then I realized that the output level of the disc was lower than usual, and I turned up the sound. Yet despite Jarvi’s delicate touch and lyrical vision of the work, plus Telarc’s patented big bass drum and deep low-end, none of the reading struck me as unusually inspired so much as unusually slow. The Pavane pour une infante defunte, on the other hand, appeared to move along at too brisk and lighthearted a pace to convey as much of the piece’s solemnity as I thought it deserved. I hear little of the radiance or sensuality in it that I hear under some other conductors. Nevertheless, I can easily understand how other listeners might find both the Pavane and the Daphnis performances sensitive and moving. La Valse fared better for me, though, nicely capturing the baleful irony of Ravel’s anti-waltz. I liked it a lot, and if it weren’t for the price of the disc, I could recommend a purchase for just this piece.

However, I found little joy in the Mother Goose songs that followed La Valse, finding them ofttimes more mundane than colorful; perhaps, however, this may have been a result of my own overexposure to the tales rather than any obvious deficiencies on Jarvi’s part. Then, the album concludes with the celebrated Bolero, likely Ravel’s most famous work. Yet, here, too, I found things slightly lacking.  Bolero should start slowly and repeat itself as it builds in intensity. What I found was that since Jarvi takes it at a healthy clip to begin with, the only thing it does is get louder. Ravel recommended about seventeen minutes for the piece. The four or five comparison discs I had on hand from Dutoit, Cluytens, Simon, and others, took from fifteen to seventeen minutes each. Jarvi covers the ground in a little over thirteen minutes, with a steadiness of rhythm that does no favors to the music.

Although Jarvi’s interpretations are earnest and occasionally elevated, with so much competition on the shelf for my Ravel listening, I doubt that I shall be coming back too often to the Cincinnati conductor in this material.

The major compensating feature of the collection is Telarc’s sound, which is luxurious in the extreme. The sonics are velvety smooth, well spread out, and nicely imaged, with a bass response to shake the rafters. The Telarc engineers again produce a recording worth listening to for the sake of its audio alone.

To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here:

JJP

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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.

Contact Information

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

Readers with impolite, discourteous, bitchy, whining, complaining, nasty, mean-spirited, unhelpful letters may send them to pucciojj@recycle.bin.

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa