On the CD’s murky cover, French pianist Roger Muraro – best known in Britain for his Messiaen credentials and for having his Ravel recordings purloined in the sad Joyce Hatto fraud – stands with hands crossed in front of his concert grand, as if the music-making contained within deserved unlimited pride. The programme concept is definitely praiseworthy, with Ravel’s G major Piano Concerto crowning a pleasant necklace of solo items variously conjuring the composer’s contemporaries, inspirations and heritage, from Fauré Nocturnes and Stravinsky Etudes to Gershwin’s ‘long-haired’ jazz. With this pupil of Yvonne Loriod it’s also possible to enjoy his technical polish and wide capacity for refined poetic musing.
Harder, though, to bring out the bouquets when the pianist’s very French sensibility topples over into extreme self-indulgence and causes the music harm. Smudged and squashed phrasings and rhythms in the Gershwin Preludes (the opening tracks) aren’t a good advertisement; while the dreaming drifts in the Concerto’s first movement manage to be both beautiful but irksome. In the solo tracks, separately recorded, matters aren’t helped by the shallow sound. The Concerto acoustic (it’s a live recording) is warmer and rounder: a perfect receptacle for the Messiaen-like colour display extracted from his Radio France orchestra by conductor Myung-Whun Chung. Alas, Muraro’s solo in the Adagio movement supplies the annoying opposite: playing so interior in feeling as to appear disconnected, if not dead.
One final grouse about this maddening CD: the booklet’s tiny and unreadable lettering. I had to use a magnifying glass and a torch.