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Each work here is performed twice, on an Érard and on a Steinway. Ravel had experience of both and composed using the French instrument. The older piano is featured on the first disc. The Érard has a dulcet, even ethereal timbre and is slightly fuzzy (perhaps because it was recorded in a church) but it has an attractive sound, with no excessive brightness in the treble and with a dry bass that that doesn’t obfuscate Ravel’s textures. It’s a little watery- sounding at times, somewhat tinkling, but that is analogous to the refined sound- world that Ravel conjures. Gaspard de la nuit is perhaps the biggest test of the Érard’s potential. This is not the most powerful account around, but it’s certainly vivid, not least in Scarbo, brought off by Paolo Giacometti with dash and drama.

The Steinway, unsurprisingly, offers a wider dynamic range, a growly bass and a dazzling treble, all of which is exploited by Giacometti while remaining sensitive to Ravel’s unique aural imagination. The sound-image has a greater clarity, the Steinway having been recorded more closely and in a dryer acoustic. It might have been better if the same venue had been used for both instruments. Overall, Giacometti is a sensitive and innate performer, giving shapely, thoughtful and vibrant interpretations, responding to and working within the pianos’ respective qualities and offering subtle differences in the same works. However, Ravel’s music seems less magical and less involving – heavier, in fact – when heard on the Steinway, so in this particular contest it is the Érard that wins the day!

COLIN ANDERSON Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Piano International, 2013 - ©Rhinegold Publishing