RAVEL: Daphnis et Chloé (complete ballet); Boléro; Pavane – London Symphony Chorus & Symphony Orchestra/Valery Gergiev – LSO Live multichannel SACD LSO0693, 78:36 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:
There are a lot of Daphnis & Chloés on disc out there, and for those who appreciate more the sensuous, shaded echt-Ravelian interpretations of Munch and Ansermet, you might want to stay with the either the 1955 Living Stereo stereo SACD or the 1961 HDTT 96/24 reissue with Munch. However, there has been a strong connection between Russia and Paris for some centuries, and Gergiev certainly adds to his laurels with fantastic conducting job here – bringing out the color and dynamics while highlighting every small detail. With his control of the orchestra he makes every bar a real event, if you like that sort of thing. He is more precise and sharply-focused than most of the other versions, although I really liked the recent BSO SACD with James Levine.
Gergiev’s chorus is more clear and present than on most of the competition versions, and there is a better balance of the male lower voices with the treble female voices. The 1962 DVD-R reissue on HDTT takes the cake for overall clarity, even over the SACD versions, and the women’s voices on the Interlude before Scene 2 are extremely prominent. Gergiev changes the order of the scenes in the ballet, which gets a bit confusing. The recent BSO SACD has a much clearer breakdown which fits the scenario of the ballet. Two Ravel chestnuts fill out the SACD, from early and from late in his career. I found it difficult to get thru the Bolero, even with Gergiev’s dramatic and passionate treatment (or perhaps because of it). Daphnis is my favorite Ravel score, and I realized I’ve never seen the actual ballet – either on DVD or live; something I must remedy soon.
– John Sunier