Lancashire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
Andrew Palmer
Group Editor
3:18 PM 23rd January 2022

Classical Music Album: Ravel Orchestral Works

Ravel Orchestral Works
3 Stars

La Valse; Ma Mère l’Oye; Alborada del gracioso; Pavane pour une infante défunte*; Valses nobles et sentimentales; Bolero
Sinfonia of London Conductor John Wilson. Andrew Haveron*
Chandos CHSA5280
Release date: 28th January 2022
This album is recorded in surround-sound and released as a Hybrid SACD.

To brighten the dark days of January, there is nothing better than a good dose of Ravel’s orchestral works not least, La Valse, which sparkles on this sixth studio album for John Wilson and The Sinfonia of London.

It is such an evocative piece conjuring up so many scenes as it oozes a warm and joyous feeling which John Wilson optimises so well as he brings the score to life. I would like to see a Strictly Come Dancing couple waltz around the studio floor to La Valse. The gathering pace as the piece rises to its conclusion keeps the energy and excitement to the last bar.

Wilson understands Ravel ensuring when the mood is melancholic or joyous the different sections of the orchestra respond perfectly. No more is this felt in Ma Mère l’Oye (Mother Goose) where in this orchestral ballet the soloists and orchestra gel sublimely.

It was written for the two children of Ravel's friends Cipa and Ida Godebski in the form of five piano duets, each recounting one of the Mother Goose stories made famous by Charles Perrault in 1695. The controlled beauty that is le jardin féerique (The Fairy Garden) captures the magic. Wilson waved his wand over the orchestra to produce such wonderful rhythmic sounds with meticulous attention to detail. All the soloists from the heavenly violin and harp to the woodwind each add delicate colours when required.

Two miniatures Alborada del gracioso and the popular Pavane pour une infante défunte are included. Alborada de gracioso reflects Ravel’s fondness for Spanish music. Once again Ravel’s inclination towards using crescendos effectively shine through. The opening of the Pavane invokes so much and the phrasing between the oboes and strings is transcendent. One can feel the lightness of touch at times and Wilson ensures that this often heard piece has a certain freshness to it. Something he also manages in the evergreen Boléro, which rounds off this all Ravel disc. Originally entitled ‘Fandango’, it does not conform to the template of music existing to equal effect on the keyboard an in the orchestra. As Hugh Macdonald points out, it was specifically intended to illustrate the orchestral palette in an exercise in controlled crescendo. In this recording John Wilson has meticulously restored many details of the score which have become lost through careless reading of Ravel’s intentions and through the transformation of the ballet score into a popular concert piece. It works well.

The Valses nobles et sentimentales instantly bring back memories of La Valse and are again given colour. The flute in the second waltz floats above the orchestral accompaniment creating the right dreamy mood. Each waltz seamlessly proceeds directly into the next

Wilson’s scrupulous attention to harmonic and rhythmic detail adds to the enjoyment of this disc and the tonal richness of the stings and the delicate and sensuous playing of the woodwind particularly flutes, as well as the brass section, create an atmospheric sound that helps us escape, as I am sure Ravel did, into different worlds.