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Ravel: Bolero / Ma Mere L'Oye / Rapsodie Espagnole / Une Barque sur L'Ocean / Alborada del Gracioso

4.7 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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The Berlin Philharmonic never has had much opportunity to play Ravel, which is a pity because under Pierre Boulez they do it extremely well. Under their current music director, Claudio Abbado, the orchestra more often than not sounds positively comatose. How gratifying then, that with a dynamic conductor and music that's fun to play, they rouse themselves to sound like the world-class ensemble they really can be when they're not resting on their laurels. Boléro is really smashing, with a knockout final cadence, and the solo players in all of these works cover themselves with glory. This is a great Ravel disc. --David Hurwitz
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Product Details

  • Orchestra: Berliner Philharmoniker Orchestra
  • Conductor: Pierre Boulez
  • Audio CD (June 14, 1994)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Deutsche Grammophon
  • ASIN: B000001GLO
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,137 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
I won't waste time writing about Bolero other than to say it is a great performance. It speaks for it self. The other works on the disc hold far more interest and here Boulez and the BPO are glorious. The Mother Goose ballet sounds creamy and rich without losing its chamber music like textures. Boulez and the BPO color this ballet and play it to the hilt. It comes of not as a show piece for the great BPO but as music...music the orchestra does not encounter often. They make the most of their chance and then some with this performance.
The other 2 works on this disc get the same kind of care. Both are great performances. The playing is unequaled and Boulez show's that he is not the cold condcutor that many make him out to be.
This is a classic disc.
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Format: Audio CD
The French composer, Maurice Ravel, is often described as an impressionist. I find his music more vivid than the haze of impressionism usually elicits, and the music on this CD is some of his most vivid and descriptive, not to mention in terms of popularity. Bolero, Rhapsodie Espagnole, Alborada del Gracioso, Une Barque sur l'ocean, and the complete Mother Goose Ballet are all among those vivid compositions.

The Mother Goose ballet has five scenes from various fairy tales: Dance of the Spinning Wheel, Pavane of the Sleeping Beauty, Conversations of the Beauty and the Beast, Tom Thumb, Empress of the Pagodes, as well as a prelude, interlude, and a finale entitled Fairy Garden; all totaling 28 minutes. Each tableaux provides a vivid musical portrait of the fairy tale: the Dance of the Spinning Wheel has a constantly moving string undercurrent, while the Pavane for Sleeping Beauty has beautifully woven melodies in the winds, a lovely calm awaiting Prince Charming. Conversations of the Beauty and the Beast is a charming waltz where, perhaps, the girl is falling in love, while Tom Thumb has direct portrayals of bird trills and calls. The festive Empress of the Pagodes has an Asian pentatonic melody in a spirited dance, but it all culminates in the Fairy Garden, with a lush hymn set in 20th century fullness, bringing the work to close. Wonderfully colorful with lyric melodies for the woodwinds, charming dances, and special effects on the strings (glissandos, slides, harmonics, col legno, etc.) give the work a fantastical feel. Also on the disk is Une Barque sur l'ocean, an ultra Romantic depiction of the sea. Great swellings of waves occur in the music, first peacefully, with gently oscillating winds and strings, but eventually more aggressive.
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By A Customer on May 11, 1999
Format: Audio CD
As usual, I agree with Mr. Hurwitz's comments about Bolero. This is my favorite recording of this work. It is the most rythmically precise version I've heard to date. Most other performances can't seem to hold it perfectly together for the entire 15 minutes, and when they get a little sloppy it ruins the piece. Please don't misunderstand; we don't want to hear Bolero played by computers, but rythmic precision adds immeasurably to the character of this work. If you think playing the same triplet figure over and over with a gradual crescendo is easy for the percussionist, think again. Then listen to Boulez and the Berliners make it sound effortless!
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Format: Audio CD
As a great admirer of Ravel's music, I don't know what made me hesitate so long in getting this recording. Yes, there are other excellent versions of most of these pieces, but Pierre Boulez makes the Berlin Philharmonic sound as French as they come. This CD is now one of the best modern Ravel recordings I can recall.

The program is generous, starting with an exciting "Ma Mere l'Oye" and ending with one of the most disciplined versions of "Bolero" I've ever heard, climaxing with an exhilaratingly raucous final few bars that come crashing down at the end. In between, Boulez conjures up a smoky, sensuous "Rapsodie Espagnole," and it, too, has excitement to spare, especially in the final "Feria" movement.

But the whole CD is wonderful, and even if you have other versions of the pieces, Boulez has done it again with this one. Sound quality is just terrific.
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Format: Audio CD
Maurice Ravel remains one of the greatest composers of the 20th century, alongside his fellow Frenchman Claude Debussy. This 1993 recording of five of Ravel's works shows why, helmed as these works are by one of the great conductors of all times, Pierre Boulez, in a stunningly fine recording with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.

The recording gives us Ravel's complete ballet "Ma Mere L'Oye" (Mother Goose), with its exquisite and lush orchestration; the brilliant "Une Barque Sur L'Ocean" (A Boat On The Ocean); and the familiar rhythms of "Alborada Del Gracioso" and "Rapsodie Espagnole", reflecting the Spanish influence that permeated much of Ravel's music (as well as his having grown up along the border between France and Spain). The recording climaxes with that great experiment of 20th century music making, the celebrated "Bolero", a work that, thanks to its rhythmic simplicity and its basis in Spanish/Arabian music, has never fallen out of style (and which had its popularity boosted further on the big screen in 1979 by its use in director Blake Edwards' comedy-drama "10").

Boulez, no slouch as a composer either, is often thought of as a rather cold and emotionless conductor who, like Leopold Stokowski before him, directs without a baton (Boulez once joked that holding a baton "made his hands freeze"). Such a perception is not entirely accurate, however, just to judge from the way he is able to handle these Ravel works, particularly the mega-popular "Bolero", with the Berliners. The orchestra had recorded that work on two separate occasions, in 1964 and 1977 respectively, under Karajan, but both times the piece felt slower than it was supposed to be. Under Boulez's direction, however, "Bolero" moves very freely, and with an undercurrent of occasional menace.
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