Review by: Victor Carr Jr
Artistic Quality: 9
Sound Quality: 9
Gerard Schwarz starts Daphnis et Chloé in a very slow tempo that suggests a funeral procession, but then takes the following Danse religieuse surprisingly quickly. Such extremes of tempo—he runs the concluding Bacchanale at such a blazing pace that you can hardly imagine ballet dancers being able to keep up—tends to draw attention more to the conductor than to the music. Still, Schwarz manages to conjure the enchanted atmosphere of the piece (especially in the more exotic passages) with great help from the Seattle Symphony, which plays marvelously—particularly the strings with their beguilingly silken tone.
Schwarz emphasizes the score’s refined textures, making the piece sound more like the 20th-century work that it is, rather than a backward glance at Rimsky-Korsakov (as others, mostly notably Gergiev, do). The recorded sound is splendid, easily capturing fine details in the wide dynamic range (even if the wind machine is less than ideally audible).
Following Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé with Hovhaness’ similarly Greek-themed Meditation on Orpheus is a clever bit of programming. It’s a beautiful and mesmerizing work that mixes the meditative and the rhapsodic in that quintessentially Hovhanessian manner. Schwarz and his orchestra offer a brilliantly realized and impeccably played performance. Not a disc to replace Munch or Boulez, but still a fine choice.
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