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Les Ballets Russes Vol 2 - Ravel, Poulenc / Gielen, Viotti, Southwest German Rso

Release Date: 05/13/2008 
Label:  Swr Music   Catalog #: 98197   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Maurice RavelFrancis Poulenc
Conductor:  Michael GielenMarcello Viotti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Europa ChorakademieSouthwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 18 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

RAVEL Daphnis et Chloé. 1 POULENC Les biches 2 Michael Gielen, cond; 1 Marcello Viotti, cond; 2 Southwest German RSO; Europa ChorAkademie 1 HÄNSSLER 93.197 (77: 30)

This is Volume 2 of a series devoted to the music written Read more specifically for Serge Diaghielev’s Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo. (Volume 1 on Hänssler 93.196, conducted by Sylvain Cambreling, features Stravinsky’s Sacre, Debussy’s Jeux , and Dukas’s La péri .)

Michael Gielen is one of my few living-conductor heroes, but I admit a personal prejudice, having been lucky enough to see him conduct several performances with the Cincinnati Symphony when he was music director in the 1980s. He was great then, great before then, and remains great today. Interestingly, in this performance of Ravel’s ballet he eschews his usual fine attention to minute detail to give us music as ambience, yet thanks to the absolutely miraculous sound quality, both orchestra and chorus sound as if they are in your living room, and the performance has Gielen’s usual overwhelming emotional commitment and a sense of rightness about it. Like most conductors, he does not bring out the sunrise effect in “Lever du jour” that one hears in the performance of Charles Dutoit (Decca), but that is a minor quibble. This performance unfolds as one whole piece, without divisions or episodes, from first note to last, a Gielen trademark for decades. It is, quite simply, remarkable and overwhelming.

More of a surprise to me was the very high quality of Marcello Viotti’s performance of Poulenc’s Les biches, not because I haven’t enjoyed Viotti in the past (I have) but because I wasn’t certain how he would respond to French ballet music. His performance is sharply accented, well defined in detail, and, more important, brimming over with energy and wit. I’m not as familiar with this score as I am with Daphnis , but for me this is equal in its own way to the marvelous performance by Dutoit (Decca).

Apparently these are repackagings of older recordings made in the 1990s; the Gielen was recorded in 1997, the Viotti in 1990, which makes the stunning sound quality all the more remarkable. I bow to sound engineers Frank Wild (Ravel) and Norbert Klövekorn (Poulenc); they very obviously know how to provide us with the most spectacular sound.

FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

Daphnis et Chloé by Maurice Ravel
Conductor:  Michael Gielen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Europa Chorakademie,  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1909-1912; France 
Length: 55 Minutes 56 Secs. 
Les biches: Suite by Francis Poulenc
Conductor:  Marcello Viotti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1939-1940; France 

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