Riccardo Chailly pays tribute to Maurice Ravel with a program of waltzes and wild reveries of ecstasy and elegance. He ushers us into Ravel’s musical worlds filled with ever-changing colors, scents, and flavors: the pulsating three-quarter time of waltzes that reflect just how much the Great War transformed European culture, the ancient love story of Daphnis and Chloé, and the relentless rhythms of Boléro. Magnifique! Riccardo Chailly, who was born in 1953 in Milan, studied at the ConservatoriesRead more of Perugia, Rome, and Milan and at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana, beginning his career as an assistant to Claudio Abbado at La Scala in Milan. Chailly was appointed Music Director of the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra in 1980, and in 1988 he moved to the same position with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam, which he helmed for sixteen years. From 2005 to 2016, Riccardo Chailly served as head of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra; starting in 2015, he became Music Director of La Scala in Milan, and since the summer of 2016 he has held the position of Music Director of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra.
Valses nobles is all cool poise and brittle elegance. The orchestral sound is almost glacially transparent here, the prominent woodwind solos are all graciously honed and the mood of refined unsentimental nostalgia is immaculately sustained throughout. In its wake, however, the opening of La valse, with its ominous rocking double bass figurations and slithering flute scales, seems even more ominous than usual, a baleful prefiguration of the music’s violent dissolution at the close. In between come some gloriously silky string-playing (the slightly exaggerated, Viennese portamentos are delicious), brilliant brass flourishes and a real sense of an almost imperceptibly gathering maelstrom.
This is extremely fine, as indeed are the Daphnis Suites, where the playing is superbly accomplished in its understated virtuosity and Chailly is marvellously acute in his understanding of Ravel’s sonorities. Boléro, meanwhile, is outstandingly done with the succession of instrumental solos both scrupulously played and individually characterised without for a second fracturing the cumulative impact of the whole. The recorded sound is tremendous—state-ofthe-art demonstration level and beyond.