Ravel: Piano Concerto in G; Piano Concerto for the Left Hand; Valses nobles et sentimentales

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WORKS: Piano Concerto in G; Piano Concerto for the Left Hand; Valses nobles et sentimentales
PERFORMER: Krystian Zimerman (piano); Cleveland Orchestra, LSO/Pierre Boulez
CATALOGUE NO: 449 213-2


Krystian Zimerman is so fastidious a recording artist that his few new releases tend to be major events, and this magnificent new account of the Ravel concertos is no exception. The works were written pretty well simultaneously in the early Thirties and, aside from the passing jazz references, are strikingly different in mood. Zimerman makes the most of the wit and vivacity in the G major Concerto’s outer movements, while he judges to perfection the long-spun melody which begins the central Adagio assai – maximum expression within the parameters of a constant pulse. The Left-Hand Concerto is inevitably a darker work, but after a suitably menacing orchestral introduction the solo playing is again extremely detailed and rhythmically alert. In both works the partnership with Boulez is ideal: he, too, favours lively speeds and crystal-clear articulation, and has in each case a real virtuoso orchestra which can deliver playing of an excitement to match the soloist’s. In between Ravel’s only two works for piano with orchestra, one of his many orchestrations of piano originals makes a slightly odd bedfellow. The Valses nobles et sentimentales are notoriously difficult to bring off, but Boulez’s expert reading is well alive to their subtlety and offers superbly sensuous playing from the Cleveland Orchestra. Among recent discs offering both concertos, Jean-Yves Thibaudet with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and Dutoit (Decca) is probably the nearest competitor, and offers interesting couplings in short concertante works by Honegger and Françaix; but the DG benefits from more exciting, up-front sound and better orchestral playing.