When selecting an orchestra to record works associated with Les Ballets Russes, SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg might not be one's first choice. What, after all, would a German radio orchestra best known for its recordings of post-modernist masterpieces by the likes of Boulez and Stockhausen do with Ravel's Daphnis et Chloé and Poulenc's Les Biches? As this 2008 Hänssler disc shows, they do just fine. Led by seasoned German conductor Michael Gielen in the Ravel, the orchestra plays with a smoothly polished, brightly colored tone that perfectly suits the score. Though their colors are neither as individually piquant nor as collectively blended as a French orchestra's might be, the German musicians play with the kind of tight ensemble and hair-raising virtuosity that most French orchestras can't match. Led by masterful Swiss conductor Marcello Viotti in the Poulenc, they turn in smart, stylish, and snappy performances with less irony but more sincerity than a typical French performance -- check out their absolutely straight-faced Rag-Mazurka. Recorded in cooperation with the Südwest Radio, Hänssler's digital sound is big, crisp, and clear.
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AllMusic Review by James Leonard
|Daphnis et Chloé, ballet for orchestra|
|Les biches, suite for orchestra (from the ballet), FP 36|