John Wilson’s Orchestral Works, a ravishing album that is marvellous and captivating is one of my favorite Ravel albums.

Ravel: Orchestral Works

John Wilson, Sinfonia London                              Chandos, out Friday


This album is among the best Ravel recordings of all time.

Everything about it is good: the repertory, the new editions, the playing of John Wilson’s hand-picked Sinfonia of London and Wilson’s own understanding of the composer, based on his work as a musicologist, as well as his exceptional gifts as a conductor.

Wilson is part of the team working on a Ravel Edition. He’s cleaning up Daphnis And Chloé, arguably Ravel’s greatest score, for future release. Others have scrubbed up several works that are recorded here, notably Boléro.

This is one of the finest Ravel (above) albums of recent years. John Wilson shows a mastery of every phrase quite different from ordinary conductors

This album is among the best Ravel albums (above). John Wilson’s mastery over every phrase is something that sets him apart from other conductors.

Wilson’s 84 minute album shows Wilson’s mastery over every phrase. This is a far cry from the ordinary conductors who struggle to understand a piece of music.

I think the complete Mother Goose ballet by Ravel is my favorite orchestral piece. It sounds amazing here.

Also, the Pavane For A Dead Princess.

Here the exceptional virtuosity of Wilson’s hand-picked Sinfonia of London’s wind and brass soloists makes for exceptional listening.

As the liner note observes, this is not a pavane, nor did a dead princess have anything to do with it, it’s just a marvellous listen, especially here.

Most memorable of all is the version played here of Boléro, being recorded for the first time.

It’s the original ballet score, not the revision for concert performance. It makes a big difference. They are a great addition to the overall atmosphere.

The Boléro, based on one long crescendo throughout its 15-minute duration, is a controversial piece. It is loved by many, while others, such as myself, don’t.

Ravel himself, conducting an early concert performance, heard a woman in the audience cry out, ‘He’s mad’. Ravel turned to his orchestra and said, ‘She understands.’

For me, the most important discovery is the ballet version with its beautifully performed solos.

It is an amazing album. The sound quality is exceptional. It’s a wonderful issue. I’m only giving it five stars because I’m not allowed to award ten.