Jean-Efflam Bavouzet plays Debussy, Ravel & Massenet

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Debussy,Massenet,Ravel
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Debussy: Fantaisie; Ravel: Piano Concerto in G; Piano Concerto for Left Hand; Massenet: Deux impromptus; Toccata; Deux pièces pour piano; Valse folle
PERFORMER: Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (piano); BBC SO/Yan Pascal Tortelier
CATALOGUE NO: CHSA 5084 (hybrid CD/SACD)

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This is a disc of pure pleasure, with some revelations thrown in for good measure. First, a quick gripe. Jean-Efflam Bavouzet is truly marvellous, but it rankles to see his name in letters four times the size of those used for the composers on the front of the disc. What a disc, though.

There are glittering performances of the Ravel Concertos, the outer movements of the G major being full of joy, while the slow movement is delectably phrased. The BBC Symphony Orchestra is on top form, playing with gallic panache under Yan Pascal Tortelier. Their performance of the Left Hand Concerto is equally strong, the pacing of its many awkward corners negotiated effortlessly.

Debussy’s early Fantaisie often partners the Ravel Concertos, but can all too easily lack conviction, seeming like a filler in every sense. There is no danger of that here, with one of the most committed and convincing accounts on disc, the opening glowing with promise that is, for once, fulfilled.

Like the Ravel Concerto in G, surround sound recording provides an attractively transparent and natural acoustic. It seems odd, then, that orchestral detail becomes opaque at times in the Left Hand Concerto, with the horns sounding like they are located off-stage.

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This is a minor caveat, and the disc closes with a delightful surprise in the shape of some extraordinary solo piano works by Massenet. There are clear pre-echoes of moments in Debussy and Ravel. Most striking, though, is ‘Eau dormante’, which could easily be mistaken for Satie. Charming works completing a glorious disc. Christopher Dingle