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Ravel: Bolero, La Valse, Etc / Karajan, Berlin Philharmonic


Release Date: 08/02/2005 
Label:  Emi Great Artists Of The Century Catalog #: 76860   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Maurice Ravel
Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic OrchestraOrchestre de Paris
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 14 Mins. 

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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews





Perhaps not unexpectedly, it’s the sound one notices first: full-bodied, sumptuous, deep, and very fresh sounding for its age (1971; Bolero from 1977); the re-mastering has captured every detail and flourish. The Alborada , which comes first on the program, has panache and swagger to burn. Jean Martinon, with this same orchestra (and on the same label) just a couple of years later, is just as dashing and animated; what’s different is the objectivity that Karajan offers—it’s as though the music, as vigorous as it is, is kept at arm’s length, the better to Read more control its sometimes unruly propensities. Martinon is less gentlemanly. Both give very vital-sounding performances.


In the first movement of Karajan’s Rapsodie , the night air is palpable, scented with spicy flowers and just a hint of romance. Martinon is a bit less purely sensuous, and with him there is a hint of danger as well. Karajan’s “Malagueña” is quite a bit less emphatic than Martinon’s, the latter of whom really drives the rhythm home; the performance by the former is also sleeker and more balanced overall. The “Habanera” picks up where the previous dance left off: the enticing music beckons provocatively, and Karajan allows it to insinuate itself; Martinon is once again more emphatic, with a more heavily accented rhythm. The “Feria” under Karajan’s direction is similar to Alborada del gracioso , in that the performance, while rhythmically precise and animated, is less earthy and less intimately observed than Martinon’s.


Le tombeau de Couperin is the highlight of the program: all of the delicacy and charm of this little gem are here, and Karajan’s objectivity doesn’t hamper his performance in the least. Both this performance and the recording of Alborada , according to the program notes, comprise Karajan’s sole phonographic accounts of these particular works. That is a mystery, since they are quite successful performances and capture the innate charm of Ravel’s orchestration. La valse is surprisingly earth-bound and deliberate in its initial minutes—one expects more atmosphere and mystery. One need only turn to Martinon for the sense of menace and uncertainty that characterize the opening measures. Masterful, too, is the way the French maestro unveils the dance; his is the more rhythmically alive, sweeping the listener along while Karajan leaves one flat-footed. According to the notes, Karajan disliked this particular work, recording it, too, only once. In this case, one can sympathize.


Bolero , with Karajan’s own Berlin Philharmonic, is just what one would expect: rhythmically precise, perfectly scaled, and paced to allow maximum orchestral impact, as the inexorable progress of the 16-minute crescendo reaches its climax. One’s reaction will probably depend on one’s feelings about Bolero , about Karajan, or both.


FANFARE: Christopher Abbot
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Works on This Recording

1.
Boléro by Maurice Ravel
Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1928; France 
2.
La valse by Maurice Ravel
Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestre de Paris
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1920; France 
3.
Rapsodie espagnole by Maurice Ravel
Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestre de Paris
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1907-1908; France 
4.
Miroirs: Alborada del gracioso by Maurice Ravel
Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestre de Paris
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1904-1905; France 
5.
Le tombeau de Couperin by Maurice Ravel
Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestre de Paris
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1914-1917; orch. 191; France 

Sound Samples

Alborada del gracioso (2002 Digital Remaster)
Rapsodie espagnole (2002 Digital Remaster): Prélude à la nuit
Rapsodie espagnole (2002 Digital Remaster): Malagueña
Rapsodie espagnole (2002 Digital Remaster): Habañéra
Rapsodie espagnole (2002 Digital Remaster): Fería
Le Tombeau de Couperin (2002 Digital Remaster): I. Prélude
Le Tombeau de Couperin (2002 Digital Remaster): II. Forlane
Le Tombeau de Couperin (2002 Digital Remaster): III. Menuet
Le Tombeau de Couperin (2002 Digital Remaster): IV. Rigaudon
La Valse (2002 Digital Remaster)
Boléro (2005 Digital Remaster)

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