Hommage à l'Orchestre Lamoureux
Yutaka Sado keeps a constant speed through Bolero, and at crotchet=66 it’s nearer to Ravel’s own performing speed than the printed metronome mark. But here the bouquets end.
A full tally of the errors and misjudgements on this disc would take me well beyond the scope of this review, and in any case not all of them are Sado’s fault. Principally, the choice of the resonant Salle Wagram does no one any favours, least of all Chabrier. What should be the crazily disjunct textures at the start of Joyeuse marche blend with one another in a confused mush, and throughout the recording, trumpets and horns tend to linger beyond their proper span.
But Sado himself is certainly not beyond criticism. The least one expects from a conductor – especially one whom, the insert-note tells us, ‘critics have unanimously hailed … as one of the most enthralling and charismatic conductors of the new generation’ – is for him to be able to beat time steadily. As I’ve said, he does so in Bolero, but unfortunately not in the Mottl orchestration of Chabrier’s Bourree fantasque, where he has already speeded up by bar 8. Elsewhere, instruments are not together (notably flute and harp in the second Valse noble before fig 13), delicate nuances of tempo are grossly expanded (see the ‘Cedez a peine’ in the sixth Valse noble) and Ravel’s indications wilfully ignored (in the climax of the seventh Valse – arguably the climax of the whole work – the fermata is on the A/G sharp dissonance, as in the third horn, first trombone and second violins, and not on the F sharp; a moment’s thought – or a glance at the piano original – would have revealed that the fermata over the F sharp on cellos and basses is a mistake).
The poor Valses are indeed the main sufferers; not surprisingly, because they’re hard to bring off even if you follow all Ravel’s instructions to the letter. True, not all his tempo markings are possible, but Sado seems to forget that Schubert’s eponymous waltzes lie behind this work, and his funereal speeds for some of the movements sap any vitality they might have had.
Finally, if he is to make any more recordings he should be encouraged not to grunt audibly at moments of stress: the opening of the Gwendoline Overture is only one of several passages thus marred. Altogether not a happy enterprise, and certainly not much of a homage to the Lamoureux Orchestra and its excellent soloists.'