Piano Concerto in F; Piano Concerto in G
Hélène Grimaud (piano)Baltimore SO/David Zinman
The jazz inflections which pervade these two early ‘crossover’ works make them natural partners. Nevertheless, the concertos’ obvious affinity disguises a marked divergence of intent. Gershwin’s tin pan alley background brings a breath of fresh air to a concerto in the heroic, soloist-pitted-against-orchestra, mould. The blues elements of Ravel’s Concerto add bite to a work otherwise rooted firmly in the Classical tradition of Mozart and Saint-Saëns.
This combination of performers should be enticing but they too often contrive to make the worst of both worlds. The wind soloists milk the slow movement of the Gershwin for far less than it is worth, leaving Grimaud caught between playing it straight or hamming it up. Whereas the flying sparks of repeated notes should create the energy to propel the last movement all the way to its overblown conclusion, here they contrive to create stasis. Grimaud’s fairly brisk pace in the long solo that begins the slow movement of the Ravel is at odds with the manner in which the first orchestral cadence nearly grinds to a halt. The recorded sound is wonderful, but ultimately irrelevant. Christopher Dingle