Maurice Ravel was commissioned to write a score based on the ancient Greek story of Daphnis and Chloe in 1909 by the ballet impresario Serge Diaghilev. He decided to compose 'a huge musical fresco, concerned less with archaism than with faithfulness to the Greece of my dreams'. Daphnis et Chloé, which Stravinsky later described as 'not only Ravel’s best work, but one of the most beautiful products of all French music', is here performed by the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and Yannick Nézet-Séguin, a team with the best possible credentials for realizing the full spectrum of this sumptuous music – from the idyllic evocation of dawn in Lever du jour to the orgiastic Danse générale which closes the work. If Daphnis et Chloé is one of Ravel’s most highly regarded works, his Pavane pour une infante défunte is one of the most popular. The brief piano piece from 1899 was orchestrated by the composer in 1910, while he was working on Daphnis. Its profound melancholy has caught the imagination of listeners ever since.
First performed in Paris in 1747 – a time when the tragédie lyrique, the genre which Lully had brought to its peak, was already in evident decline – Daphnis et Chloé is a pastorale within which lurks a ballet with a bergère storyline, and which is blessed with a plot which, although mythological in content, is of great lightness; this neatly matched the taste of the nobility of the time and even more so that of Madame de Pompadour with its recreation of an idealized pastoral world… By then the taste for Boismortier’s music had gone stale… until now!
One of the most versatile musicians on the planet, André Previn has amassed considerable credentials as a jazz pianist, despite carving out separate lives first as a Hollywood arranger and composer, and then as a world-class classical conductor, pianist, and composer. Always fluid, melodic, and swinging, with elements of Bud Powell, Oscar Peterson, and Horace Silver mixed with a faultless technique, Previn didn't change much over the decades but could always be counted upon for polished, reliable performances at the drop of a hat…
This is a prestige issue if ever there was one, not so much for its music (though in fact this very apt coupling is not otherwise available) as for its presentation and aural glamour. Naturally DGG is proud to have its new contract with the Boston Orchestra, and the German engineers have done marvels in a new environment at capturing the characteristic Boston sound.
This third volume of the complete orchestral works by the great French composer Maurice Ravel features his music for the ballet Daphnis et Chloé, his longest work, written for Sergei Diaghalev’s Ballets Russes. The company gave the first performance in 1912. Ravel depicted the characters in the story with great musical delicacy, and the Stuttgart Orchestra reflects this through the attention it gives to the score’s finest nuances. Ravel secures scintillating effects from the large percussion section that he uses, a clear nod to ancient music. The Valses nobles et sentimentales were composed at the same time as the ballet, which makes it an appropriate coupling. The version for piano, clearly linked to Franz Schubert’s similarly named waltzes, was published in 1911, with the orchestral version following one year later. Again the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra gives a thrilling, first class interpretation.