Jean Martinon

Ravel: Orchestral Works

(CD - EMI Classics / Warner Classics #5099950089)

Review by

There are other wonderful collections of orchestral works by Maurice Ravel (those by Pierre Boulez, Charles Dutoit, Claudio Abbado, etc.), but this issue featuring Jean Martinon and the Orchestre de Paris from 1974 is among the very best. Martinon's balancing of sonorities for maximum brilliance, highlighting of melodies, playful way with rhythm, and use of subtle tempo changes to highlight form bring out the quintessentially French qualities of the music. The Orchestre de Paris, which was then the best orchestra in France, may not have had the polished virtuosity of the Berlin (Boulez), the piquant colors of the Montréal (Dutoit), or the refined power of the LSO (Abbado), but its inherent balance between melody and harmony, and its uncanny sense of group rubato, make them ideal. The only comparable French set of Ravel's orchestral music is by Andre Cluytens and the French Conservatory Concert Society Orchestra of Monte Carlo. But for all its cool beauty, the Monte Carlo orchestra is just not in the same league as the Orchestre de Paris in terms of style and technique, and the decade-older EMI sound, for all its depth and warmth, lacks the clarity and definition of the present set.

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