Recommended by Ned Lannamann
Maurice Ravel may have been the greatest orchestrator in history. The French composer transformed Modest Mussorgsky’s piano piece Pictures at an Exhibition into the full-blown orchestral suite we all know and love today, with its famous trumpet fanfare, and for his own Bolero, Ravel arranged a single rhythmic motif and a short, simple melody into a steadily crescendoing edifice of musical suspense. Daphnis et Chloé, commissioned as a ballet by Sergei Diaghilev for his Ballets Russes and premiered in 1912, is a near hour of Ravel’s orchestral splendor, with all members of the orchestra showing off their aural colors like a synchronized flock of exotic birds. The story of Daphnis et Chloé follows the love of a goatherd boy and a shepherd girl amid the company of nymphs and pirates and satyrs, but its pagan revelry is merely a clothesline for Ravel to weave his musical ideas together, each sweep and swoop more decadent than the last. Tonight the full music is performed start to finish, instead of the two excerpted suites most audiences hear today.