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Paul Turok
Turok’s Choice, December 2009

Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé and seldom-heard Shéhérazade, ouverture de féerie, are well played by Jun Märkl and the Orchestre National de Lyon (8.570992)…This strong, professional group dominates the proceedings, far more than in other performances, which is rather unsettling…

George Dorris
Ballet Review, October 2009

Ashton’s fine version now sets the standard. The sound here is very good.

James Miller
Fanfare, September 2009

…well played by the orchestra and the chorus makes a healthy sound. © 2009 Fanfare Read complete review

Robert Moon
Audiophile Audition, July 2009

It’s Ravel’s mastery of the orchestra and the richness of his instrumental palette that endears him to audiophiles. His ballet Daphnis and Chloe, written for Diaghilev in 1912, is the best example of this genius. Ravel called it a ‘choreographic symphony.’ Based on the Greek legend, it’s his lengthiest work, unrivalled for its sensuality and electrifying climaxes. A recording of Daphnis and Chloe requires clarity of textures and orchestral detail, a ravishing sense of orchestral color (it depicts pagan rituals), and an idiomatic tempo that maintains musical momentum despite the ebb and flow of the story.

Producer and engineer Tim Handley has achieved a masterful balance between clarity and atmosphere that communicates Ravel’s sensuous diaphanous elegance, powerful climaxes, and lucidity of detail. Unlike many older recording of this masterpiece, the choir is a present force, not overwhelmed by the powerful orchestral climaxes. Bass response is easily heard without standing out. Listen how present the double bass and cello pizzacatos are, below Daphnis’ flute love song to Chloe (band 14)…Märkl and his orchestra shape a performance that never loses its forward momentum and is played with passion and impeccable execution. Dorcon’s grotesque dance is sharp and energetic. Daphnis’ reply to Dorcon is stylish and effervescent. The glorious finale pulsates with drama, yet the precision and detail that Ravel demands is discernable. If you only have one of the old ‘classic’ performances of this work—Munch, Monteux or Cluytens—add this one in excellent digital sound to your collection.

The filler, Ravel’s 1899 fairy overture, Sheherazade, is an appropriate companion. It’s inventive, well played and recorded, merging romantic flamboyance with the nascent impressionistic verve of a young Ravel. This is a valuable and welcome addition to the Daphnis and Chloe discography.

Bob Briggs
MusicWeb International, June 2009

Recently Märkl and his Lyon Orchestra have given us two disks of Debussy’s orchestral music—the second being especially impressive (Naxos 8.570993)—and so this disk promised much. I wasn’t disappointed. This is a very good performance of the score, very well recorded so every little detail can be heard, the balance between choir and orchestra is good and it’s a very enjoyable experience. Märkl really understands this music and moulds it to his vision, the orchestra willingly going with him and producing some excellent playing…in the unaccompanied section at the end of scene 1 there is some ravishing singing…As a pleasing coupling we have the early, and quite delightful, fairy overture, Shéhérazade. This has nothing whatsoever to do with the great song-cycle of the same name from four years later…This is totally recommendable—especially at the price…

Edward Greenfield
Gramophone, June 2009

Daphnis dazzles—and at bargain price

We know from the discs made with the Lyon National Orchestra when John Eliot Gardiner was music director how brilliantly this opera orchestra can play, matching any rival in France. This Naxos disc, in dazzling sound, demonstrates that under its latest music director, Jun Märkl, its standards remain just as high. This is one of the most spectacular of showpieces among ballet scores, and the Lyon orchestra gives a powerful and subtle performance, with the wind and brass soloists outstanding.

The Leipzig Radio Choir, which comes from where Märkl was last in charge, adds to the glow of the performance, which can match almost any version in the catalogue. Naxos has again demonstrated its rare ability to produce excellent discs at bargain price. The shimmering sounds of the Daybreak movement are perfectly caught, with the wind nicely defined, and the final Danse générale rounds the performance off thrillingly.

To add to the attractions a substantial fill-up is offered. The Ouverture Shéhérazade is a student work but already demonstrates Ravel’s gift for creating magical orchestral textures, very reminiscent of Debussy but not entirely derivative with its climactic fanfares leading to a hushed close. It provides a delightful makeweight to an outstanding disc.

Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, June 2009

Recording Ravel’s great choreographic opus with its huge dynamic contrasts has traditionally presented a challenge to performers and engineers alike. The work is fraught with problems, and to the artists and Naxos’ credit, this new version ranks high with the best of them.

John-Pierre Joyce
MusicWeb International, May 2009

This recording by the Orchestre National de Lyon and the radio choir of the Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk under Jun Märkl does full justice to Ravel’s lush score. The playing is spot-on, while the chorus adds dramatic depth to the Classical tale of separated lovers and godly intervention.

The piece starts off conventionally enough, but by track 3 it is evident that Märkl and his players are guided in their interpretation by the unfolding storyline—seeing the piece much more as an active dance-drama rather than an extended symphonic poem. We therefore feel the rivalries and jealousies at work between Daphnis, Chloé and their admirers in the first danse générale, with rhythmic, edgy interplay between strings, harp and percussion. Further on, in track 5, the orchestra eagerly plays Dorcon’s grotesque dance for laughs, as Daphnis’s rival tries to impress Chloé with his ungainly moves.

The orchestra’s ability to evoke an eerie and disturbing sound-world is also noticeable. The scene in which the nymph statues come to life (track 8) is hauntingly beautiful, while the god Pan’s appearance in track 12 is quite chilling. The chorus adds real depth to the music. Their extended singing during the scene change at the end of the first part of the ballet (track 10) is rich and powerfully disturbing, punctuated by strident and increasingly threatening brass calls.

Because of the popularity of Ravel’s second suite of the ballet’s music, it is inevitable that the listener’s attention will focus on the final three numbers (tracks 14 to 16). But here the Lyon forces do not disappoint. The morning sunrise builds up amid twittering bird-calls, fluttering woodwind and shimmering strings to a final orchestral blaze. The ensuing dance where Daphnis and Chloé mime the story of Pan and Syrinx is characterised by faultless flute playing and strong support from pizzicato strings. The final danse générale keeps up an urgent impetus, pushed on by the chorus. Although there is a slight slackening of tempo part-way through, it quickly picks up again and ends in a brilliant blaze of orchestral colour.

As a final filler, Märkl and the Orchestre National de Lyon offer Ravel’s first orchestral work, the rarely played ‘fairy overture’ Shéhérazade. Composed while still a pupil of Fauré at the Paris Conservatoire, Shéhérazade is clearly not in the same league as Daphnis et Chloé, but it provides interesting evidence of the composer’s later orchestral mastery. The influence of the Russians (Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin and the like) is clear. But here, too, are shades of Debussy, Szymanowski and even Bartók. The structure of the piece is clumsy—blocks of themes that are weakly developed—but the orchestra makes the most of the lush tonalities and exotic melodies that make it such fascinating listening.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, March 2009

I am pleased that Naxos have so quickly replaced their previous Daphnis et Chloé with this excellent performance from the very French sounding Lyon orchestra. Over the past four decades it has become something of a showpiece for the sound engineers just as much as the orchestra, with every seductive nuance brought to our attention. I like the unhurried approach of the young conductor, Jun Märkl, which harks back to the incomparable recording from Pierre Monteux. Both give rhythmically subtle and texturally diaphanous readings, Märkl’s First Part looking more to the quiet aspects, the occasional outbursts becoming all the more telling. It has to be said that it in the concert hall it is an uneven work, the dancers carrying the work through the first two parts before Ravel unleashes his colourful orchestral fantasy in the frequently played Third Part. We hear woodwind keys clattering as the engineers go in close to capture the beginning of the daybreak scene, but in the event Märkl does opt out of the now familiar final orgasm of choral and orchestral sound. He also avoids the end becoming a race to the finishing line the chorus integrated into the overall texture. As a bonus we have a brilliantly lit account of Shéhérazade, the cliamatic moments carrying their full quota of weight. Throughout the woodwind is very fine, and I love the silvery quality of the flutes, while the brass is incisive and percussion effects nicely integrated. If I point to one edit where you hear a tempo shift in Daphnis, it is a measure of the clarity in this outstanding sound. A major contender in a much overcrowded marketplace.

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