LPO – Bernard Haitink conducts Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé [November 1979]

0 of 5 stars

Daphnis et Chloé

John Alldis Choir

London Philharmonic Orchestra
Bernard Haitink

Recorded 6 November 1979 in Royal Festival Hall, London

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: January 2012
CD No: LPO – 0059
Duration: 58 minutes



A warm welcome can be extended to this atmospheric and very involving complete Daphnis et Chloé, from a concert that took place before Bernard Haitink got to recording the work in Boston and then Chicago.

This is an ‘on the wing’ performance, finely honed, played with sensitivity and virtuosity, and with no little allure. Haitink is a master of the work in its entity, noting that Ravel termed it a ‘choreographic symphony’. The conductor has the measure of the music’s long reach, and also its by-the-minute complementing of the scenario. He is also alive to expressive potency and has a genuine feel for lilt and sway that is faithful to dance. Furthermore, Haitink never exaggerates those descriptions that are already clear-cut in Ravel’s painstakingly precise notation, and he knows too that Ravel’s sensibilities do not require underlining.

If the vocalising members of the John Alldis Choir are a little lacklustre in timbre – and not as intense as their counterparts in Charles Munch’s first Boston recording (arguably the recording of Daphnis), then they are at least in tune (not always a given in such very exposed writing), there is overall the satisfaction of living a performance that is presented as it was given on the night and without any subsequent patching. Haitink’s one miscalculation is the too-fast opening to ‘Danse guerrière’, which emerges as rather blurred, although dramatically there is some logic in its ‘rude’ interruption. There is much to relish, not least the score’s ‘Part III’ (effectively the popular Suite No.2): the sunrise glows (the moment when Daphnis and Chloe are reunited with a kiss puckers up nicely!), the central ‘Pantomîme’ is blessed with wonderfully limpid flute-playing (the principal back then is not identified: Martin Parry, perhaps) and the closing bacchanal is fleet without compromising all the good musical aspects that had been established. The final build-up is thrilling.

Taken from BBC Radio 3’s broadcast, the sound is pretty good, quite lucid, if with rather recessed violins and displaying a greater sense of space not given to the Royal Festival Hall in situ – no doubt a consequence of how the concert was relayed on the night: perfectly acceptable in itself, if not always true to the Hall. A greater dynamic range would be welcome, though, but at least Andrew Lang’s re-mastering is less interventionist than on some previous LPO releases, although there are still occasional taints of over-processing. Nevertheless, this is a compelling realisation of a great score that well repays interest.

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