Ravel: Gaspard de la nuit; Valses nobles et sentimentales; Sonatine; Pavane pour une infante défunte; Jeux d’eau; Prélude

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Ravel
LABELS: Ensayo
WORKS: Gaspard de la nuit; Valses nobles et sentimentales; Sonatine; Pavane pour une infante défunte; Jeux d’eau; Prélude
PERFORMER: Joaquín Achúcarro (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: ENY-CD-9808
According to the booklet notes, Joaquín Achúcarro calls his version of Gaspard the slowest ever recorded. It almost certainly isn’t, for it doesn’t feel excessively slow, though in the third and final piece, ‘Scarbo’, momentum can only be achieved through a high degree of intensity, which is lacking here. Achúcarro is fond of lingering, so while ‘Ondine’, the first piece, is sensitively played, there’s a sense of the pianist negotiating its difficulties. The textures of ‘Le gibet’ are nicely separated, though the chords, on a bright, light-toned piano, are not quite melting. The impression of fingers playing notes, rather than creating sonorities, pervades all the performances on the disc, though that is more appropriate in the neo-classical Sonatine. Here, though, Achúcarro is unusually subjective, pulling the pulse about in the Prelude, dwelling dreamily in the Minuet and tugging at the third movement instead of letting it flow naturally. He might have forgotten Ravel’s joke about pianists thinking the Pavane was dead rather than the Infanta, for he sounds almost as if he’s reading it for the first time. Ravel’s most vaporous piano work, the Valses nobles et sentimentales, with his most pastel-coloured, almost weightless harmonies, calls – after its bouncy opening, which is properly forthright – for much more seductive charm, particularly in the fourth waltz, though in the final résumé the fragments of earlier pieces drift in and out very evocatively, rare moments of expressive truth in a disc which is disappointingly keyboard-bound. Adrian Jack

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