On record: Sounds so true that they almost hurt, sounds so old that they seem like new

RAVEL Orchestral Works Cleveland Orchestra / Christoph von Dohnanyi; Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra / Hugh Wolff (Recorded: 1989-1991) Teldec `Ultima' 0630-18959-2; two discs
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Superb digital recordings re-marketed at an astonishingly low retail price (two-for-the-price-of-one, or less), appropriately coupled and neatly packaged. Dohnanyi's Daphnis et Chloe Second Suite boasts seamless contours, fluid winds solos and a tough-grained, ice-cold "Danse generale". The "Pantomime" is willowy and sensual, the opening "Lever du jour", a voluble arch of sound. La Valse opens to a sinister pulse and climaxes to sanitised chaos, Alborada del Gracioso dons lightning contrasts and Bolero marches forth with the seductiveness of a conquering army (Dohnanyi pushes the decibels for the crowning peroration).

Hugh Wolff's disc is subtler but no less well recorded. Le tombeau de Couperin is distinguished by a bubbly "Prelude", a delectable "Forlane" (the wind-topped trio provides a model of stylish phrasing), and a rumbustious "Rigaudon", while the delicate Danse - a Debussy piano original served in Ravel's translucent orchestration - keeps up the pace without losing breath.

Wolff also offers us the Debussy/ Ravel Sarabande, a cool-headed Pavane pour une infante defunte and Ma mere l'oye - not the suite, but the full "ballet version", complete with four colourful interludes. Ravel wrote nothing finer and Wolff's performance, though not quite in the Monteux class formagic, unfolds with disarming simplicity and impressive textural clarity.

Other "Ultimas" worth noting include symphonies by Mozart and Haydn and Beethoven's Missa Solemnis - all of them digital recordings, and all conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt.

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