Ravel/Debussy: Piano Concerto in G; Piano Concerto in D (for the left hand); Fantaisie

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Ravel/Debussy
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Piano Concerto in G; Piano Concerto in D (for the left hand); Fantaisie
PERFORMER: Zoltán Kocsis (piano); Budapest Festival Orchestra/Iván Fischer
CATALOGUE NO: 446 713-2 DDD
It often seems that classic French temperaments thrive on the sensuous vivacity of Ravel in G, while central European souls relish the sinister. Several recorded pianists have gone the first way, notably Rogé and Queffélec, so Kocsis’s superbly shaped performance of the Left-hand Concerto is timely.

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Is this the most successful complex single-movement form ever devised? Here it sounds quite free of the digressions that make the Liszt Sonata or Sibelius Seven so hard to play. The start is deceptively low-key. Kocsis builds steadily in power without losing his lyrical touch, and the orchestra is at one with him in locating the work’s gigantic climax. Fussy wind solos do not undermine the impact.

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With both hands the pace is quick and the style light, even in the slow movement, where the melody is finely sung though the depths are not plumbed. The orchestra makes more of the outer movements’ vivid colours. Cumulative excitement runs higher in the Fantaisie – a good policy since this least typical of Debussy’s orchestral works sounds half like a sequel to the Symphonie cévenole by d’Indy and the rest like practice for La mer. Sound balance gives a natural perspective rather than artificial close-up. Robert Maycock