Great orchestras are thinking alike by recording Ravel's largest and most sumptuously scored work in their latest self-published, surround-sound recording ventures. Renditions by the Boston Symphony and the Chicago Symphony both have great sound, fine choruses, and excellent sound quality, but deliver rather different experiences.
With Poulenc's Gloria as filler, the Chicago disc is a better deal. Still, value depends on how much you like Ravel in a feet-firmly-planted performance whose highest priority is musical logic. In other respects, Bernard Haitink characterizes the music in the spirit of Maxfield Parrish -- airy, picturesque and stylized.
Boston's James Levine is blazingly operatic, perhaps more than any other available recording, with emphatic, specific characterization of the smallest details that give the music an intensity bordering on terrifying. Pierre Boulez' DG recording is similar, though Levine maintains an urbanity that suggests the best of all worlds -- and with superior recording quality. If the Boston recording isn't the No. 1 choice in this repertoire, it's close to it.