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Roger Hecht
American Record Guide, March 2013

…these readings project life, interest, and color; and the good French orchestra helps…the sound has the presence and clarity that is a must with Ravel.

…this is excellent Ravel. © 2013 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide

Robert Cummings
Classical Net, February 2013

It is a delightful and assorted collection…presented in splendid performances by the Orchestre National de Lyon led by their music director, the venerable American conductor Leonard Slatkin. What spirit each reading exhibits, from the sunny character of Alborado del grazioso to the allure and insouciance of Bolero. In sum…Slatkin…offers…one of the finest Boleros currently available.

The Pavane pour une infante défunte…gets a touching performance from Slatkin and his Lyon players…This effort was one of Ravel’s first major orchestral works and its colorful character and brilliant orchestration show it to be a solid composition, an especially delightful one in a performance as atmospheric and spirited as this one.

The Piece en forme de habanera…is a choice morsel that receives a splendid performance here from solo violinist Jennifer Gilbert. Naxos, as usual, provides excellent sound reproduction, and the indefatigable Keith Anderson offers insightful notes. Strongly recommended. © 2013 Classical Net Read complete review

Steve Moffatt
Village Voice – Balmain, January 2013

The collection starts with two favourites, Alborada del gracioso and Pavane pour une infante defunte, before a side trip to Spain brings us the beautifully varied tonal palette of Rapsodie Espagnole and the ravishing solo violin by Jennifer Gilbert on Piece en form de Habanera.

This magnificent album is crowned by perhaps Ravel’s best-known, and certainly most notorious, piece Bolero. Its single, slowly building theme accompanied by a snare drum is a concert tour de force which many people at the time couldn’t understand there was even speculation in America that its pre-minimalist repetition was a sign that the composer had dementia brought on by a head injury he suffered in a road accident!

…this is one of the most thrilling works in the orchestral canon and is a worthy outro to the next volume from a band which combines flair with aplomb in equal measures. © 2013 Village Voice – Balmain Read complete review, December 2012

Naxos is the most remarkable producer of series in the CD business…Naxos has produced engaging, often fascinating series for decades and is constantly creating new ones or adding to existing ones. Take the new Ravel series featuring Orchestre National de Lyon conducted by Leonard Slatkin. The first volume is a kind of “greatest hits” compilation, containing Alborada del gracioso, Pavane pour une infante défunte, Rapsodie espagnole, and the inevitable Boléro, as well as other works. But because of the way Naxos pulls the CD together, what listeners get is mostly an intriguing compilation of pieces that Ravel originally wrote for piano and then orchestrated. Four of the seven works here…originated as compositions for piano, dual pianos or piano duet, a fact that makes the composer’s inventive and evocative orchestrations all the more impressive. These are all colorful works…The orchestra plays all of them with sensitivity and skill, and Slatkin does a particularly fine job with the seemingly ubiquitous Boléro by emphasizing Ravel’s subtle and gradual additions of orchestral instruments to the ever-growing crescendo that is the distinguishing feature of the piece. This is an outstanding start to what is sure to be another top-notch Naxos series. © 2012 Read complete review

William Hedley
International Record Review, December 2012

Ravel’s orchestration of the piano piece Alborado del gracioso is particularly sumptuous, and the Lyon orchestra certainly delivers on that score…Leader Jennifer Gilbert’s frequently seductive playing is the best feature. © 2012 International Record Review

Roger Nichols
BBC Music Magazine, December 2012

Leonard Slatkin draws a vivid sound from the Lyon players, with a wide range of dynamics and colours…No one could do more for the early Scheherezade overture, where Ravel’s interest in orchestral timbres is paramount…Bolero too comes off well. © 2012 BBC Music Magazine

Geoffrey Norris
Gramophone, December 2012

This programme is altogether more successful than the same orchestra’s disciplined but sometimes matter-of-fact performance of Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique (10/12).

…here in Ravel there is a more appreciable affinity with the particular world of sound. The atmosphere is established not merely with confidence but with freshness as well. The Shéhérazade overture finds a delicate balance between Ravel’s exoticism, lyricism and gaiety, Slatkin shaping the music with a potent mix of the sensuous, sinuous, sinister and spirited. If this disc heralds a comprehensive Ravel series, it augurs well as a companion to the orchestra’s Debussy set under Jun Märkl. © 2012 Gramophone

David Denton
David's Review Corner, November 2012

The first disc in a new cycle of the orchestral works of Maurice Ravel from the Lyon orchestra and their newly appointed Music Director, Leonard Slatkin. It opens with a fast flowing Alborado del gracioso that erupts at the appropriate moments more forcibly than we normally encounter. It is a similar feel of urgency in the forward momentum through the smooth sonorities of the Pavane, the subtle colours produced by the individual players of the Lyon orchestra equally enhancing the performance of Rapsodie espagnole. The woodwind are particularly outstanding, and though Ravel’s music may be nothing more than picture postcards of Spain, Slatkin caresses the music with great beauty, the Habanera becoming slinkily seductive before he allows the heavy brigade of the orchestra to take over in a pulsating account of the exuberant Feria. The orchestra’s leader, Jennifer Gilbert, is the soloist in an adaptation of a Ravel song, Vocalise-etude en forme de habanera, here followed by another seldom heard work, the Ouverture de feerie for an abandoned opera, Sheherazade. Quite a volatile and richly scored work it is also quite extended and using quite dramatic percussion effects as the music becomes increasing volatile. As a contrast the Menuet antique recalls music of yesteryear in a Baroque style. Then to the composer’s best known work, the ballet, Bolero. Described by Ravel as an orchestrated crescendo, we have heard faked recordings that start the work almost inaudibly, but here it is in the world of concert hall reality. Slatkin plays down the jazzy elements, his tempo, having an inevitability, eventually arriving at the full orchestral outburst amid atmospheric bass drum and gong. Naxos’s third and most persuasive recording of the work. © 2012 David’s Review Corner

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