Maurice Ravel: La Valse; Ma Mere L'oye; Tzigane; Bolero; Pavane

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RAVEL La Valse. Ma mère l’Oye: Suite . Tzigane. 1 Boléro. Pavane pour une infante défunte Carlo Rizzi, cond; Netherlands PO; 1 Gordon Nikoli? (vn) TACET 207 (SACD: 63:10)

This is a true audiophile release. The CD booklet contains detailed notes and diagrams indicating where all the instruments sit in relation to the listener, when heard through six speakers. The lineup differs from one piece to the next. For example, in Ma mère l’Oye the violas are positioned directly behind you, whereas in Tzigane they move further to your left and the double basses take over the central position. For Boléro the positioning of the many solo instruments is intricately plotted. I certainly hope a critic with six speakers is able review the disc: I would be interested to hear how the surround sound strikes him or her. I only have an old-fashioned (high end) stereo system.

Tacet call their sound “sensuous and subtle” and for once the reality lives up to the hype, for even in stereo this disc sounds very smooth. Perhaps the violins don’t have the strength they need to dominate in the mix (at moments when they need to, of course), but that may also be because this is not balanced quite like a traditional concert hall set up. In stereo every solo instrument, especially woodwind, has genuine presence, while parts of La Valse practically turn into a bass drum concerto.

The Netherlands Philharmonic is a fine and disciplined orchestra, while Rizzi brings the pliancy he shows as an opera accompanist to the French orchestral repertoire. His tempos for La Valse and Boléro sound just right to me: the former elastic enough to conjure up the Viennese spirit, the latter keeping up momentum without pushing forward à la Charles Munch—although Rizzi does finish the piece a touch faster than he began. In Tzigane the double basses may be behind you, but Nikoli??s gypsy fiddle is very much in your face; he dashes off the long opening solo with élan. The sound quality pays dividends everywhere, from the mysterious swirling sonorities that usher in La Valse to the blossoming climax of “Le jardin férique,” the fifth and final movement of Ma mère l’Oye . (The lower strings are beautifully warm in this movement.) Rizzi only gives us the orchestral suite, not the complete ballet.

While these performances may not match the excitement of Reiner, the elegance of Monteux or Dutoit, or the precision of Boulez, they are by no means second tier. Besides, there is always something to be said for sound that is sensuous and subtle.

FANFARE: Phillip Scott

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: TACET207SACD

  • UPC: 4009850020745

  • Label: Tacet

  • Composer: Maurice Ravel

  • Conductor: Carlo Rizzi

  • Performer: Gordan Nikolic