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Gil French
American Record Guide, January 2018

…Slatkin usually is in his element with Russian music, and that’s certainly true here. Opulent is the right word… © 2018 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide, June 2017

Many of the pieces written or orchestrated by Ravel are quite short—five of them run less than a minute apiece—but Maalouf’s words, declaimed sensitively by André Dussolier, help hold the overall sequence of material together to tell a well-paced story. There is some straight narrative here and some old-style melodrama, with the words spoken above the music, and all of it works quite well. The overall presentation has more drama and heft, if less impressionistically muted color, than Daphnis et Chloé, and makes a fascinating counterpart to the ballet. Also on this CD is the three-song cycle from 1903, Shéhérazade, sung with an entirely apt sense of Oriental fascination by Isabelle Druet and neatly complementing the differently evocative music of Antar. The whole disc is redolent both of the Middle East and of the Orient, yet in general the music is recognizably, even strikingly French. © 2017 Read complete review

David Hurwitz, May 2017

…Slatkin’s conducting is excellent, as it almost always is when he’s interpreting Russian music, and the sonics are very good when the narrator isn’t narrating. The coupling is a fine performance of Shéhérazade. Isabelle Druet…sings with intelligence, excellent diction, and characterful attention to the text. © 2017 Read complete review

Remy Franck
Pizzicato, May 2017

This is a most rewarding CD, with Ravel’s nearly unknown incidental music Antar and the three Shéhérazade songs. Leonard Slatkin brings his Orchestre National de Lyon to perform with a great charismatic flair that fully engages the listener’s imagination. French mezzo-soprano Isabelle Druet sings the song cycle with her brilliant, richly coloured voice, clear diction and perfect phrasing. In both works, Slatkin draws shimmering colours from the orchestra. © 2017 Pizzicato

David Denton
David's Review Corner, April 2017

Music in France had fallen in thrall of everything Russian, and to take that to its peak, there would arrive in Paris the impresario, Diaghilev, with his Ballet Russes. Maurice Ravel had already fallen under its spell as a teenager who sought out every performance he could hear of music by Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin and Mussorgsky, and it was in 1903 the words of Tristan Klingsor inspired the twenty-eight year old composer to write the evocative Sheherazade for mezzo-soprano and orchestra. It uses just three of the stories that the young woman used to keep the Sultan’s interest in her and with it her continued existence. It was to be another seven years before he began work on a patchwork score of incidental music for a performance of Chekri Ganem’s play, Antar. Borrowing—to put it kindly—from Rimsky-Korsakov’s tone-poem Antar, which the composer later described as his Second Symphony, together with a passage from his opera, Mlada, Ravel re-orchestrated them presumably to suit a pit orchestra. He then added his own scene painting, though the end product was far more Rimsky than Ravel. The production passed by with little notice, though strangely this hotchpotch score was preserved, and with new linking narrative from Amin Maalouf, it was given its world premiere in Lyon in 2014. Unlike Rimsky-Korsakov’s score as we know it, there are passages where it becomes a quiet backdrop to spoken dialogue, though the Lyon playing of the remaining moments are magical. The young French mezzo, Isabelle Druet, is gorgeously seductive in Sheherazade, colouring every note and phrase, Slatkin providing a sensual backdrop, and I have never heard such an electric climax to the opening Asie. Wide dynamic range recorded sound from two ‘live’ performances in this fifth volume in the complete orchestral works of Ravel from Lyon. © 2017 David’s Review Corner

Records International, April 2017

Ravel’s colorfully re-orchestrated selections from Rimsky-Korsakov’s symphonic suite Antar and opera Mlada, with interpolations of his own music, as the incidental score (53 minutes long) for a 1910 theatre production are heard here in their premiere recording, revived and reconstructed alongside a new text that symbolizes the romance and chivalric spirit of Antar the warrior-poet and his beloved Abla. French-English Antar texts. © 2017 Records International

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