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There are at least two dozen ‘complete’ surveys of Ravel’s complete music for solo piano, some more complete than others. Alexandre Tharaud’s excellent new survey for Harmonia Mundi lays claim to be the most complete, as according to the text on the back cover a ‘notable feature of this recording is the presence of two previously unrecorded pieces: La Parade and the Minuet in C-sharp’. Sadly for Harmonia Mundi and Tharaud, however, this is not true. François- Joël Thiollier recorded La Parade (1896) for Naxos back in 1993 (8.550683), while Florian Uhlig included it and the Minuet (1904) in his Hänssler Classics survey in 2012 (HAEN93318, released September 2014). Thiollier’s performances are not really competitive now, even at budget price, and since even he seems to have omitted the Minuet, Uhlig’s is the only survey as complete as Tharaud’s.

Angela Hewitt’s Gramophone Award-winning survey for Hyperion (released in 2002) has long been my personal favourite, the sensitivity and polish of her accounts (omitting La Parade and the Minuet) matched by few rivals: Stephen Osborne for the same label, perhaps, and now Tharaud. The Frenchman’s playing is a touch more robust, representing a more masculine approach as opposed to Hewitt’s gentler, more feminine perspective. Compare their accounts of Gaspard de la nuit or Miroirs to hear the difference. It is not a question of technique; both have bucketfuls to spare. What I like about Tharaud’s is his rhythmic verve in ‘Scarbo’ and ‘Alborada del gracioso’, yet the poetry he finds in ‘Le Gibet’, ‘Noctuelles’ and even the overplayed Pavane is magical. Harmonia Mundi’s acoustic is a little more resonant, too. If Tharaud’s versions do not displace Hewitt’s, they work beautifully and I could live with both on my shelves, which is what I will do.

GUY RICKARDS Read the full review on Agora Classica


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