I’ve been listening to Ravel, Mahler, and Stravinsky this morning.
First off a comparative listen to two recordings, Martinon and then Boulez, of the Concerto for the left-hand. I find Martinon, whose Ravel I’ve known for many years, quite muddy, although Boulez might even be too clean by that metric. The Martinon recording also has some very noticeable and somewhat distracting splices. Boulez can be a little heavy, especially in the sections that emphasise percussion. Also on Ravel, Placet futile (this listen with Felicity Palmer) from the Mallarmé settings is such a beautiful song, the best of three very fine settings.
Mahler 5, which I’ve warmed to considerably over the past year, in the Gielen recording, is quite something. I think I prefer the even shorter Walter ’47, but this is a good middle ground, avoiding the massive drag so many conductors put on the Adagietto. How Bernstein even manages to drag it out for almost 12 minutes is beyond me.
Lastly Agon, one of my favourites, also conducted by Gielen. This is the most recent of four recordings I own, others by Craft, Volkov, and Rosbaud (my definite favourite of those three), and it is very good. As is often the case (especially with his Mahler) Gielen brings out details that are often buried, and this adds much to the experience. In particular this time around the Pas de deux and Coda took on an effortless beauty I had not heard before.