France-Espagne – Chabrier: España; Massenet: Le Cid (Ballet Music); Ravel: Alborada del gracioso; Debussy: Images (Ibéria)

Reviewed on Thu 13 Aug, 2015

In François-Xavier Roth's selfless hands both Massenet's irresistibly warm-hearted and indelibly tuneful ballet music from Le Cid and Ravel's captivating Alborada del gracioso come off marvellously, the latter's dusky central episode readily igniting the imagination.

Here's yet another winner from François-Xavier Roth and his classy period-instrument band in repertoire that celebrates French music's long-standing infatuation with its southern neighbour. Roth's sparkling reading of Chabrier's delectable España sets the template for the whole disc: not only is the orchestral playing conspicuously stylish, unflustered and articulate, phrases are shaped with keen sensitivity and genuine poetic flair, and (most perhaps rewarding of all) textures glow and shimmer with frequently revelatory transparency. In Roth's selfless hands both Massenet's irresistibly warm-hearted and indelibly tuneful ballet music from Le Cid and Ravel's captivating Alborada del gracioso come off marvellously, the latter's dusky central episode readily igniting the imagination – as indeed does the wholly intoxicating (and here headily fragrant) 'Les parfums de la nuit' at the heart of Debussy's Ibéria. Make no mistake, this is music-making of a very high order. Emanating from three concerts at three different venues, the sound is consistently realistic and full-bodied. Some justifiably enthusiastic applause has been left in and if anything serves to reinforce the very real sense of occasion and heaps of spontaneity on show. Go ahead and treat yourself!
–Andrew Achenbach