Debussy/Ravel: Sonatine; Miroirs; La parade; Menuet antique; Jeux d’eau

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COMPOSERS: Debussy/Ravel
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Sonatine; Miroirs; La parade; Menuet antique; Jeux d’eau
PERFORMER: François-Joël Thiollier (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.550683 DDD
Opposites seldom come this neatly paired. Here the contrast is less in the respectively distanced and immediate characters of two composers working in a broadly similar aesthetic, and more in the two pianists’ playing. Both are given intimate, room-sized acoustics. Zilberstein takes a spacious approach; episodes of warmth, poetry, sometimes assertion, arise out of a fluent serenity. Thiollier lives more dangerously. When his act comes off it is sparky and vivacious: when it doesn’t, the results are hasty and dry.

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Quicker and lighter in the Sonatine, Thiollier phrases with quizzical, persuasive inflections that leave Zilberstein sounding suave and uninvolved. He, though, alternately rushes and underplays the Miroirs, whereas she finds twice the feeling and atmosphere and a stronger dance character. For Jeux d’eau they follow type, the one set reflective and fluid, the other all sparkle and spray.

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Zilberstein gives Debussy’s Asian and Spanish evocations a cool elegance; there is more vitality and energy in Pour le piano, along with a gravely touching Sarabande. Thiollier, with La parade, a 12-minute piece of 1898, reaches parts that other Ravel cycles do not. An unlikely meeting of Satie and Massenet, except when it passingly predicts the Valses nobles et sentimentales, this mix of allusions and wit has the air of somebody else’s attempt to recall an improvisation. It is played with enormous gusto. Neither disc matches Anne Queffélec’s Ravel, but Thiollier has a quirky spirit that makes me look forward to his Gaspard. Robert Maycock