WORKS: Six Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm; Out of Doors Suite; Six Etudes; Valses nobles et sentimentales; Alborada del gracioso (Miroirs); Pavane pour une infante défunte
PERFORMER: Joanna MacGregor (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 14042 DDD
This is a generous and attractively planned recital, ranging from the impressionist images of Bartók’s Out of Doors to the exuberance of his Bulgarian Dances and Ravel’s Alborada del gracioso. The Bartók performances are full of life: the ‘Drums and Pipes’ movement of Out of Doors has a thundering impact, the ‘Chase’ is almost frightening in its intensity and even the evocative ‘Night’s Music’ movement from the same work teems with mysterious nocturnal life in an almost orchestral abundance of sonorities.
It is a pity that there is only room for half of Debussy’s études, since the tantalising selection from both books reveals MacGregor as an imaginative interpreter of these elusive miniatures, better to my mind than Paul Crossley and Maurizio Pollini in their recent complete sets (reviewed in March). Finally, Ravel’s Valses nobles et sentimentales are slightly marred by a too literal approach to rhythm, where more suavity and Viennese élan wouldn’t have gone amiss, though the more intimate numbers are beautifully controlled.
Where clarity of rhythm is desirable, in the outer sections of the Alborada, it is occasionally lost in the sheer number of notes that MacGregor has to encompass, but her musicality still shines through Ravel’s technical trickery. She ends with a spacious, poetic account of the Pavane. The recorded sound, from the Snape Maltings, is ideal. Matthew Rye