WORKS: Le tombeau de Couperin; Miroirs: Pavane pour une infante défunte; Menuet antique
PERFORMER: Anne Queffélec (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: VC 7 59233-2 DDD
Here’s as different a view of Ravel as you could find today from the recent recorded cycle by Jean-Yves Thibaudet: humane, civilised and generous playing, Ravel from the heart. It has its showpiece in the Alborada del gracioso (from Miroirs), and even there the dance is a vivacious French one rather than a burst of obsessive Spanish intensity. The singing line and the alert ear take precedence over artifice and self-conscious display. There seems to be all the time in the world for the prelude to Le tombeau de Couperin to expand into its final harp-like flourish, and for the Pavane to move steadily and soulfully forward.
Queffélec does objectively take longer than many pianists over most of the pieces, and the effect is consistent – an easy-going Forlane from Le tombeau that takes the acid harmonies in its stride, a seascape to bring prosperous voyages rather than shipwrecks in Une barque sur l’océan, birds in Oiseaux tristes that really do lament. The other side of the coin is a lack of urgency and bite; there’s nothing driven or desperate about the Toccata from Le tombeau, for example. As it happens, the main works here were the best things in Thibaudet’s set, where they take Ravel farther out towards the edge of perception. But Queffélec has warmth and immediacy, and her cycle will be one to look forward to as it continues, intimate in sound against a resonant background. Robert Maycock