John Wilson conducts Ravel's Daphnis et Chloé

Wilson and his forces provide a Daphnis for the ages

John Wilson conducts Ravel's Daphnis et Chloé

This is the first recording of John Wilson's own performing edition of Ravel's masterpiece, Daphnis et Chloé. Wilson spent some of the lockdown correcting score and parts of the score. with his own Sinfonia of London and a hand-picked chorus of professional singers, the Sinfonia of London Chorus, Wilson offers what is now the standard in this piece. The chorus offers both male and female alto singers.

This is the complete ballet, note - not the famous Suites. That needs someone who can provide a connecting thread through the labyrinth, and in this Wilson succeeds beyond any doubt. It seems an impossible task to knock the two accepted truly great recordings of Daphnis of their perches - Pierre Monteux/LSO (Decca) and Charles Munch/Boston SO (RCA) - but it is to Wilson that I will now reach. The sheer cleanliness off performance mixed with the beautiful atmospherics, caught in a simply sperb recording, make this disc unutterably special. It might as well have 'award' stamped on the front cover.

Here's Chandos' promo video:

Listen to the sheer translucency of texture, and how Wilson completely understands Ravel's gestural mindset, in one of the lesser-known movements, the “Danse de Lycéion” from the first part (“Une prairie à la lisière d'un bois sacré”):

Wilson's sense of give and take, his ability to give the music space (the ravishing “Nocturne” that closes the first part) is utterly remarkable, as is the contrasting energy of the “Danse guerrière” (crowned by that fabulous chorus):

Daybreak is the great favourite from Daphnis (“Lever du jour”; it opens the third part), and here it emerges with a near-Scriabinesque sense of the transcendental. The balance between chorus and orchestra is perfect:

With detailed notes, and a performance as fresh and new as the edition itself, Wilson and his forces provide a Daphnis for the ages. And no wonder the chorus is magnificent: the chorus master is the respected and infinitely experienced Simon Halsey.

As a postscriptum, I missed out one valuable and significant (for me, at least!) account when I was referring to other interpretations: André Cluytens with the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra and the René Duclos Choir on Classics for Pleasure (LP - CFP 40323). It remains a lovely reminder of a past era:

Currently, Wilson's superb disc is retailing a 16% off at Amazon via this link.