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Ravel: Piano Concertos; Mélodies

Stéphane Degout (baritone), Cédric Tiberghien (piano); Les Siècles/François-Xavier Roth (Harmonia Mundi)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Ravel
Piano Concerto in G; Piano Concerto for the Left Hand; Don Quichotte à Dulcinée*; Deux mélodies hébrïaques*; Sainte* Trois poèmes de Stéphane Mallarmé*; Pavane pour une infante défunte
*Stéphane Degout (baritone), Cédric Tiberghien (piano); Les Siècles/François-Xavier Roth
Harmonia Mundi HMM902612    71:09 mins

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By any standards, this is the A Team, and they do not disappoint. Here is Ravel in all his passion and technical wizardry and, praise be, with no intrusive ‘interpretations’ to distress the ear: Ravel did say, ‘I don’t want to be interpreted, I just want to be played.’

Of course there need to be nuances to give the music life, and in the Pavane pour une infante défunte Cédric Tiberghien finds an ideal between rigour and imagination. In the two concertos, playing an 1892 Pleyel (the only possible grounds for the disapproval of the composer, who preferred Erards), he finds any number of colours amid his faultless technical grasp. As always, the sonority of Les Siècles is supremely clear, not least because the gut strings replace metal ones, while the timbre of the cor anglais in the slow movement of the G major Concerto is heartstopping.

In the nine songs ranging in time from Sainte of 1896 to the Don Quichotte cycle of 1933, Stéphane Degout’s crystal-clear diction and warm, unforced tone mark him out as an exceptional singer of mélodie and, like Tiberghien, with a wide palette of colours at his command.

Like the two solo performers, François-Xavier Roth respects Ravel’s texts, although I confess I can’t hear what are billed as ‘new’ readings in the Left-hand Concerto apart from the reduction of the final climax from five bars to four, which has authority in an autograph and even on film! There’s a further ‘praise be’ for the piano’s A naturals at figure 51, instead of the horrible printed F sharps! A wonderful disc I shall play again and again.

Roger Nichols

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