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Monday, August 15, 2022

Ravel: Orchestral Works [Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra/Rizzi] Blu-ray Audio Review


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The Recording


By way of irony, Tacet, the name of a Blu-ray Audio “Real Surround Sound” label, is the musical term for an instrument that is instructed to remain silent. That is hardly the case with Tacet recordings as the listener is enveloped in the sound stage with some of the orchestra in front and the remainder on the sides or in the rear, something akin to the conductor’s perspective from the podium but even more immersive. A good starting point for Tacet surround sound recordings is this album of favorite Maurice Ravel Orchestral Works. The playlist is as follows:

  • La Valse (12:16): Originally intended as a ballet sequence for famed impresario Sergei Diaghilev, this piece begins innocently enough, in Strauss-like waltz terms, and gradually builds to a veritable deconstruction of the dance.
  • Ma Mere L’Oye (18:45): A five-movement fantasy based on the Mother Goose stories with each movement dedicated to one of Charles Perrault’s fairy tales, including The Sleeping Beauty, Tom Thumb, The Green Serpent, Beauty and the Beast, and The Fairytale Garden.
  • Tzigane  (9:20): A show piece for solo violin (in this case, Gordan Nikolic), Ravel weaves exotic “gypsy” themes into this rhapsody.
  • Bolero (16:33): Perhaps Ravel’s best known work, this hypnotic, dual-themed dance was once described by the composer himself as “orchestral tissue without music.”
  • Pavane pour une infante defunte (6:25): A brief piece that conveys the funeral procession for a dead princess with a slow moving mournful theme appropriate for the occasion.

Young maestro Carlo Rizzi leads the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra with a sure hand through this program that will certainly be familiar to classical music fans. Each piece is given its due and, while perhaps not the first choice for any single selection, will bring very satisfying renditions to its listeners.

Audio Quality


This is the first Tacet surround Blu-ray Disc to come my way and most assuredly will not be the last. Diagrams for the orchestral layout are given for each work and there are some stunning spatial effects, particularly in Bolero where the orchestral swell gradually works its way from the rear of the sound stage to its foreground. While sitting in the midst of the players rather than having them in the traditional proscenium array, the effects are not only immersive, but allow the delineation of orchestral voices that are not always so audible in standard arrangements. For listeners who wish the more conventional listening experience there is a two-channel version, also at 96kHz/24-bit resolution, that is excellent.

Supplemental Materials


The program booklet is quite informative both about the recording process and with a fine background essay by Christian Shaperon about the composer and the orchestral pieces in the concert.

The Definitive Word



Listening to well known orchestral works in an entirely new soundspace turned out to be a real revelation. The internal instrumental voices, often swamped in conventional recording arrangements were at once clearly heard and gave a new perspective on pieces that I have heard more times than I can readily recall. Comparing both standard two- and multichannel versions is a real luxury and the best news is that the Tacet classical catalog continues to grow. Looking forward to more such releases particularly when not only the audio values but the performance values are as high as they are here.

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