The setting to music of literary characters and events is no uncommon procedure, but this PentaTone Classics album offers listeners a particular cross-section of musical-literary synthesis: French compositions inspired by more fantastical literature. The program opens with Dukas' well-known Sorcerer's Apprentice (inspired by Goethe's Der Zauberlehrling), followed by Ravel's Mother Goose Suite, and concludes with the rarely heard Koechlin Les Bandar-Log from the composers Symphonic poems after Kipling's The Jungle Book. The liner notes are an important key to the enjoyment of this album, particularly for first-time listeners to these works; the notes provide a nicely outlined, easy-to-follow summary of the "action" that the music is portraying, making it even easier to follow along. Of course, what really makes this recording notable is the exceptional performance given by the Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg under the direction of Marc Albrecht. Even the Dukas, which has been performed and recorded countless times, is given new life with Albrecht's careful attention to detail and sublime balance achieved between sections of the orchestra. Textures within the Ravel vary nicely from simple and ethereal to rich and deep. Even the sometimes abrasive dissonance in the Koechlin is savored by Albrecht and orchestra, truly accentuating the frenetic "monkey business" that the composer was attempting to convey. PentaTone's multi-channel SACD track is pleasantly spacious and detailed.
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AllMusic Review by Mike D. Brownell
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