Ravel: Complete Works for Solo Piano

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WORKS: Complete Works for Solo Piano
PERFORMER: Jean-Yves Thibaudet
Standing at a slight distance from open emotion, masking sensitivity with thoughtful precision – as with the personality of Ravel’s more intimate music, so it is with Thibaudet’s playing. You are drawn in gradually and surely, but only so far, until you meet the self-protective mask. Recorded over just five days, the performances show consistency and concentration in their fluent fleetness and their preference for the delicate, understated nuance to the flamboyant gesture.


What comes most naturally to Thibaudet is the quiet caprice and imagination for the neglected, exploratory set of Miroirs, and the stance of artifice that runs through the Valses nobles et sentimentales, where he can let rip, or let the tunes sing out, without the risk of appearing confessional. This is entirely idiomatic but not the whole story, and the most overtly Romantic work, Gaspard de la nuit, emerges with a distinctive atmosphere that catches the music’s chill rather than its demonic energy: ‘Scarbo’ is fast but not fantastical with repeated figures that tick rather than pound, and surface gestures that dart rather than flash.


The surprising exception is the Tombeau de Couperin suite, which seems to engage responses on another level, whether in the urgency of the quick movements or the tender and sad spaciousness of the Menuet. The recording, fine when quiet, makes big moments clang. Robert Maycock