Ravel/Honegger/Franaix

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COMPOSERS: Ravel/Honegger/Franaix
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Piano Concertos; Concertino; Concertino
PERFORMER: Jean-Yves Thibaudet (piano)Montreal SO/Charles Dutoit
CATALOGUE NO: 452 448-2
This disc offers a fascinating conspectus of the piano concerto in the Parisian jazz age. The brilliantly scored Ravel works are familiar enough (perhaps too much so in the case of the G major Concerto, whose soft-centred slow movement can begin to pall after a while), but Honegger’s Concertino is well worth rediscovering. It inhabits a drier, more sardonic world, and it’s a piece that has an atmosphere all of its own. Its slow second section is particularly effective: a simple piano melody suffused with rustling violins, while fleeting clarinets and muted trumpets lend a highly individual halo of sound. The Françaix Concertino is actually a student work, but one of the best this highly skilful purveyor of French wit has ever produced: inconsequential, perhaps, but great fun.

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Decca already has a recording of the Ravel concertos from Dutoit and the fine Montreal orchestra, with Pascal Rogé; but this newcomer can more than hold its own. It is superbly played and recorded, with admirable clarity in the orchestral detail, though the smooth, slightly recessed piano sound occasionally robs the solo part of the sparkle it needs, especially in the outer movements of the Ravel G major Concerto. Misha Donat