New York Philharmonic/Maazel – Ravel & Stravinsky

5703 1
0 of 5 stars

Ravel
Daphnis et Chloé – Suite No.2
Rapsodie espagnole
Stravinsky
Chant du Rossignol
The Firebird [1919 Suite]

New York Philharmonic
Lorin Maazel

Recorded at concerts in Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, New York City – Daphnis and Rossignol between 25-28 April 2007, Rapsodie and Firebird between 14-19 September 2006


Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: April 2008
CD No: DG CONCERTS
477 7175
Duration: 80 minutes

This is the sort of music that a virtuoso orchestra and a virtuoso conductor take in their stride; put the New York Philharmonic and its current music director Lorin Maazel (who stands down at the close of the 2008-09 season) together and the potential is for five-star performances. Certainly the expected brilliance, clarity and precision of these performances is as expected; to which a glorying in such technical expertise adds a voltage no doubt aided by being taken from concerts.

In a programme difficult to find a satisfactory order for – it is as listed – it’s the Second Suite from Daphnis et Chloé that begins; not the most atmospheric opening, although every detail is meticulously in place, Maazel sustaining the opening sunrise to a vividly projected climax, an effect softened by Robert Langevin’s rapturous flute solo and re-heated with the final bacchanal, quite measured in tempo and without quite the orgiastic excesses this music can claim. There’s no applause and within just a few seconds (too short) we’re off from Ancient Greece to Spain for Rapsodie espagnole, lacking sultry recesses and nocturnal hues in the opening section but responding elsewhere to orchestral and conductorial excellence, the more festive examples of Ravel’s Spanish artistry enjoying poise and consideration if (arguably) too much control from the podium.

Maazel has long been a champion of Song of the Nightingale and this flamboyant performance is particularly noteworthy for a theatrical impetus and a musical exactitude that is fully revealing of Stravinsky kaleidoscopic invention. For this alone, this release is worth the entrance fee. The 1919 Suite from The Firebird is also a winner; what was missing atmospherically from the Ravel pieces is here far more tangible and one senses an engagement that is more than just with notes on the page. But, then, Maazel has previously led recordings of both these Stravinsky pieces that are correctly identified as classics – here he continues his own tradition.

The recordings, bright, vivid and detailed, may at times contribute to what can seem a lack of subtlety, or even something overblown, but they are also reveal that as musical engineers, Maazel and the New York Philharmonic are on the top of their game. The booklet notes – in English only – are particularly extensive and detailed.

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