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Initially I was suspicious of Boulez, worried that his meticulous accuracy and ear for detail might not sit well with Ravel but my misgivings were unfounded, partially because Zimerman exerts a regulatory effect on the performance. This particularly emerges in the ruminative slow movement of the G Major Concerto; even more so in the in the Piu lento passage of the D Major Concerto (starting at letter 8) to which Zimerman brings an almost luminous warmth. In so many performances this passage is taken far too fast, destroying both contrast and mood.
Zimerman is every bit up to these works. He deals with the intensely difficult cadenza in the D Major Concerto with utter assurance, its arpeggiation convoluted (no doubt influenced by Ravel's small hand - he could barely stretch an octave) and depending on the emphasis of single notes to produce the theme. Fine in the first few bars (after letter 50) but as it progresses some very real hand-gymnastics are required.
Boulez and Zimerman between them manage to show us a warmer side of this concerto, dwelling less on its oft-reported morbidity than a sensual luminousity rising from the depths, still managing to bare its teeth when need be - as in the middle section (letter 14).
The Valses are somewhat whimsical - they were never meant to be otherwise - and benefit by Ravel's undeniable skill in orchestration. I was pleasantly surprised by Boulez' evocative handling of these sometimes pastel, hazy pieces.
Both orchestras are well up to these works and the DG sound resembles the effect of the concert hall with the piano placed rather forward in solo passages...my only gripe is that it seems to recede when joining in a general orchestral tutti.Read more ›
As ever, the approach of the soloist is critical. Zimerman makes his initial allegro attack with aplomb, and he pulls off the concluding, dynamic presto with equal attitude. But is in the heart-wrenching adagio, around which the whole work revolves, that he is at his strongest. While not technically exhausting, this is a difficult movement to perform to its full potential. But Zimerman's timing, leaning off the elusive beat to exactly the right degree, is magnificent.
The eight Valses are a charming distraction (no disparagement intended) upon which the Cleveland is able to shimmer and shine. They clean the palette for the dark, pounding feast that is the Concerto for Left Hand.
This is not my favourite recording of the Left Hand Concerto, but it comes pretty close. What it lacks in menace it makes up for in exquisite detail and panoramic scope. And quibbles aside, this surely amounts to a definitive recording of these three great works.