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The first volume of Ravel’s Orchestral Works – featuring the inaugural recording of American conductor Leonard Slatkin’s new tenure as Music Director of the Orchestre National de Lyon – is simulanteously released on CD and Blu-ray Audio discs.

Listen to an excerpt:

Maurice RAVEL (1875–1937)
Orchestral Works, Vol. 1
Alborada del gracioso
Pavane pour une infante défunte
Rapsodie espagnole • Pièce en forme de habanera*
Shéhérazade – Ouverture de féerie
Menuet antique • Boléro

Jennifer Gilbert, violin*
Orchestre National de Lyon • Leonard Slatkin

Naxos 8.572887 [CD] / NBD0030 [Blu-Ray Audio]

Ravel orchestrated his piano pieces Alborada del gracioso and Pavane pour une infante défunte to great effect; the former gains in suggestive colour, and the latter evokes nostalgic pathos. Another orchestrated work is the Menuet antique, which is redolent of old French dance forms. Rapsodie espagnole, Ravel’s first major orchestral work, shimmers with expectancy and bursts into Spanish dance rhythms, themes he pursued in Pièce en forme de habanera. His earliest orchestral work, the ‘fairy overture’ Shéhérazade, is all that remains of a planned opera based on The Thousand and One Nights. The famous Boléro, an ‘orchestrated crescendo’ of undimmed power, has proved one of the most popular works in all classical music.

Why Ravel?

“The music of Maurice Ravel has a special place in my heart. There are those who consider him all craft and little art, but I believe the creative output of this composer ranks with the very greatest of the musical world.

It is easy to take him for granted. Works such as Boléro and the Pavane have become such a part of our everyday life that perhaps they are not taken as seriously as the composer intended. But all one has to do is listen to the opening bars of either work and we are transported into a world that could only have been created by this genius.

Even early works such as the Shéhérazade Overture carry the distinctive sound and style that would mark Ravel throughout his career. It must not be forgotten that he really did not produce that much music during his lifetime. However, what he left us is of such superb quality that it is almost impossible to find a weak opus within his catalogue.

The ONL has a distinguished history with Ravel. In fact, the concert hall where we perform is named for the composer. So it was only natural that we would embark on a recording project that embraces the majority of his output. All of us had a wonderful time during the sessions and it is with great pleasure that I present this first volume of Ravel's music.” – Leonard Slatkin

About the Artists

Internationally renowned conductor Leonard Slatkin began his tenure as Music Director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in the 2008-2009 season. He was recently named Music Director of the Orchestre National de Lyon, beginning with the 2011-2012 season. Additionally, he became Principal Guest Conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in 2008-2009. He completed his twelfth and final season as Music Director of the National Symphony Orchestra in June 2008, and finished his three-year commitment as Music Advisor to the Nashville Symphony Orchestra in June 2009. Slatkin continues as Principal Guest Conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Born in Los Angeles, where his parents, conductor-violinist Felix Slatkin and cellist Eleanor Aller, were founding members of the Hollywood String Quartet, he began his musical studies on the violin and studied conducting with his father, followed by training with Walter Susskind at Aspen and Jean Morel at The Juilliard School. After a successful tenure as Music Director of the Saint Louis Symphony from 1979 to 1996, he became Conductor Laureate. He served as Chief Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra from 2000-2004 and Principal Guest Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl from 2004 to 2007. His over a hundred recordings have brought seven GRAMMY® Awards and more than sixty GRAMMY® Award nominations. He has received many other honours, including the 2003 National Medal of Arts, France’s Chevalier of the Legion of Honour and the League of American Orchestras’ Gold Baton for service to American music.

Offspring of the Société des Grands Concerts de Lyon, founded in 1905, the Orchestre National de Lyon (ONL) became a permanent orchestra with 102 musicians in 1969, with Louis Frémaux as its first musical director (1969-1971). From then on the orchestra was run and supported financially by the City of Lyon, which in 1975 provided it with a concert hall, the Lyon Auditorium. Since the Opéra de Lyon Orchestra was founded in 1983, the ONL has devoted itself to symphonic repertoire. Taking over from Louis Frémaux in 1971, Serge Baudo was in charge of the orchestra until 1986 and made it a musical force to be reckoned with far beyond its home region. Under the leadership of Emmanuel Krivine (1987-2000) and David Robertson (2000-2004), the ONL continued to increase in artistic stature and to receive international critical acclaim. Jun Märkl took over from him in September 2005 as Music Director of the ONL. Leonard Slatkin was recently named Music Director, beginning with the 2011-2012 season. [photo]

Also Available

Hector BERLIOZ (1803–69)
Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14
Le corsaire – Overture, Op. 21

Orchestre National de Lyon • Leonard Slatkin
Naxos 8.572886 [CD] / NBD0029 [Blu-ray Audio]

Immensely influential, the remarkable Symphonie fantastique was composed while Hector Berlioz was suffering an intense and unreciprocated passion for an Irish actress, Harriet Smithson. Its autobiographical tale describes a young musician’s opium-poisoned nightmares of jealous despair and fatal justice following the murder of his beloved. Berlioz wrote a second movement cornet solo into a subsequent revision of the score, here included as an optional extra. He wed his sweetheart actress but, recuperating in Nice, Le corsaire was written after the final break-up of their marriage.

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