Ravel: Daphnis et Chloe, Alborado del Gracioso, Le Tombeau de Couperin, Valses Nobles et Sentimentales
Ernest Ansermet, conductor
L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande
Pressing: FFSS (side 1), wide band FFRR (side 2), Blueback
Price range: $28-33, mean $31 on popsike
($35-342, mean $143 for the Decca SXL 2273)
Comments: I came home from work in the mood to listen to some orchestral Ravel. Listening to a CD of the pianist Abbey Simon playing Le Tombeau de Couperin (Vox) put me in the mood to listen to its orchestral arrangement, and I had already mentally picked out this recording. About 8-9 years ago, I found this London Blueback -- sealed -- at a used record sale in Chicago for something like 12 bucks. As you may already know from my blog, I love French orchestral music, especially works by Debussy and Ravel, and this record is simply outstanding. The performances by the Suisse Romande are very nice (a few issues with intonation aside), and who better to lead this orchestra than the founder himself, Ernest Ansermet. There are a few conductors from this era who really knew how to conduct French music, and he was one of them (others, in my opinion, including Beecham, Cluytens, Monteux, and Paray). The quality of the sound throughout the entire record is gorgeous. Bass extension is quite deep and visceral. The ending to the Danse Generale of Daphnis et Chloe is powerful and had me staring in awe at my speakers. You can really appreciate the chime of the triangle in the opening movement of the Valses Nobles et Sentimentales. No loss of clarity whatsoever in loud passages. This is one record I come back to time and time again.
I was quite surprised to see this album receive a 6/10 for performance and a 6/10 for sound in Moon and Gray's book "Full Frequency Stereophonic Sound". I guess we are entitled to our differences of opinion!
The Decca (SXL 2273) is quite rare and very expensive. If you like this music, go for the London Blueback which is, as you can see, pretty affordable. I can pretty much guarantee you that you will see no difference between the two, and you won't have to burn a hole in your wallet/purse.