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Maurice Ravel The Complete Piano Works of Maurice Ravel, Volume I Review

Album. Released 2007.  

BBC Review

This is a very grown-up disc on all counts.

Claire Rogers 2007

The five works on this CD – the first of two volumes Artur Pizarro is releasing of Ravel’s complete piano music – create a fascinating and almost surreal musical journey. From the watery magic of Jeux d’Eau and the dark virtuosity of Gaspard de la Nuit, to the multi-faceted Miroirs and the brilliance of La Valse, this recording highlights not only Ravel’s amazing ability to depict extra-musical characters and events through music, but also Artur Pizarro’s very individual way of bringing these phenomena to life in his playing.

One of Linn’s hybrid super audio CDs (SACD), this disc can be played on both super audio and regular CD players, and demonstrates perfectly how SACD benefits the piano more than any other instrument. When listened to on SACD it reveals a rich sonority across the whole range of the instrument. The low end is detailed and never gets lost or muddy, while the top end is always smooth and never harsh, as normal CDs often can be.

But Pizarro’s playing itself has no small hand in what makes this such a rewarding disc to listen to. His interpretation of Ravel is refreshingly personal and un-sensationalist, and although he never goes too far in terms of fortes, it doesn’t seem to matter. The detailed nature of SACD highlights his subtle use of the pedal throughout, allowing the rapid arpeggio passages to be heard without any kind of smearing to spoil the clarity. Even in the disc’s most complex passages – and in Gaspard de la Nuit we encounter one of the piano repertoire’s real monster-works - Pizarro’s playing gives the impression of being as free from resistence as the 'fountains, cascades and streams' Ravel describes in his Jeux d’Eau.

This is a very grown-up disc on all counts. I would definitely recommend it and look forward to hearing the second volume.

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