In contrast to his recent stint in Berlin, when he concentrated heavily on the Austro-German repertoire (Beethoven, Brahms, and Mahler), Abbado conducted an unusually diverse repertoire during his 1980s tenure at the LSO, including Rossini, Mendelssohn, Berg, Stravinsky, and Prokofiev. These Ravel recordings are generally good, showing an orchestra with a flexible, transparent sound and a conductor with a precise ear thatís attuned to the wealth of detail in Ravelís scores. The best of them reveal all the color of the French composerís orchestration without any loss of power or drama. Thereís a sinuous rendition of Boléro and a downright menacing La valse, in which you can hear Viennese waltz culture go right off its hinges. The Rapsodie espagnole is the setís highlight: Abbado really pushes the music, and itís got great rhythmic punch.
Elsewhere, though, heís so interested in getting the notes right that the deeper text of the piece is lost. Thereís a very well played but emotionally cool Daphnis et Chloé, some Valses that sound neither nobles nor sentimentales, and a Ma Mère líOye ("Mother Goose") suite thatís short on charm. As a budget collection of Ravelís complete orchestral works, this makes for a perfectly good recommendation, but those requiring both execution and passion might want to spring for the ongoing set by Pierre Boulez on the same label. Its three discs command full price but include superb renditions of the piano concertos as well.