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Two disc sets of Ravel’s piano music (complete or semi-complete) form part of a crowded market place. Gieseking and Casedesus are widely discussed, and so are more contemporary recordings by Thibaudet, Bavouzet, Lortie, Collard, Osborne, Hewitt et al. What makes Bertrand Chamayou’s latest offering different is his inclusion of the Menuet in C-sharp minor and Siloti’s arrangement of ‘Kaddish’ from the Deux mélodies hébraïque. These ‘encores’ replace Parade and La Valse.

Chamayou – in a beautifully perceptive interview – speaks slightingly of Parade, for me a brilliantly witty seaside frolic, and feels that La Valse is best heard in the two-piano version. He pays generous tribute to several co-Ravelians – to Pogorelich (his early recording of Gaspard), François, Richter, Lipatti and, most of all, Perlemuter. Nevertheless, the special quality of Chamayou’s performances, their cool-headed elegance and pianistic finesse lies in his assertion, ‘With Ravel, everything is played out between the lines…’ Here is an essential clue to playing as fine and unadulterated as you could wish. What razor-sharp articulacy in Gaspard de la nuit, in particular the cold menace of an ‘Ondine’ devoid of any humanising element. There is ultra-precise rhythmic attack in the early Sérénade grotesque, and just when you occasionally wonder whether there is a closer engagement with Ravel’s innermost nature from others (Argerich and Lortie are more dolcissimo in Jeux d’eau) you hear an À la manière de Borodine subtly coloured and inflected. Chamayou’s Prelude from Le tombeau de Couperin is a crisp alternative to Casadesus’ silvery flow and he possesses enough technique to go through the final pages of the Toccata with no easing of the tempo.

This is a superb album, finely recorded and presented.

BRYCE MORRISON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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