Ravel: Piano Concerto for the left hand; Rapsodie espagnole; Bolero; La valse; Pavane pour une infant défunte

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WORKS: Piano Concerto for the left hand; Rapsodie espagnole; Bolero; La valse; Pavane pour une infant défunte
PERFORMER: Claire Chevallier (piano); Anima Eterna/Jos van Immerseel


‘I don’t want my music to be interpreted; it’s enough for it to be played.’ This well-known Ravelian diktat is published as the heading to Jos van Immerseel’s speech to the orchestra before the first rehearsal, and I have the pleasure in reporting that, with a single tiny exception, words and action are as one. It’s true that in the Left Hand Concerto Claire Chevallier does not match Krystian Zimerman’s brilliance and drive. The point is, she is not trying to. Her interpretation on a 1905 Erard; grand modèle de concert’ is more lyrical and reflective and at times more sheerly beautiful – in fact much closer to that of Ravel’s chosen interpreter Jacques Février. One could question her rubato in the Più lento passage (around fig. 9), but the line is never in danger. Elsewhere the light, transparent bass and sparkling treble pay off handsomely (Erards were always Ravel’s favourite) and Chevallier’s technique fully matches her musicianship. My only real quibble is with La valse, over the final two-bar withdrawing roar of the waltz proper (before fig. 97), marked ‘Ier Mouvt’, where the tempo is not sufficiently retarded to make the point. Otherwise there are, thank goodness, no sentimental rubatos at the ends of phrases. Instead we have the sudden, dangerous crescendos that Ravel wanted in so much of his music and rarely got, as well as a huge variety of phrasing and articulation, again in accordance with the composer’s wishes. As if this were not enough, we have the added pleasure of French brass and woodwind (those French bassoons!), gut strings and minimalto- absent vibrato. Whatever recordings you may have of these works, this disc is a must, balancing opulence against clarity in the orchestral sound and respecting the diamond-hard construction on which Ravel lavished so many sleepless nights.