on 21 April 2013
I love both of Ravel's Piano Concertos so this CD was a must buy for me. Both concertos are accompanied by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Claudio Abbado and were recorded in the mid-1980s for DG. The Piano Concerto in G is played by the amazing Martha Argerich whose sensitive and deft touch makes for beautiful listening on this recording. She has recorded the Concerto in G before with Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic for DG in 1967 and I would say that recording is the more special, but not by much.
Ravel's other masterpiece, the Concerto for the Left Hand, is played by Michel Beroff, and he gives a towering performance of real strength and power.
Also on this cd are three other Ravel pieces which are just for orchestra and they are Fanfare, Menuet antique and Le Tombeau de Couperin. All are performed with great atmosphere by Claudio Abbado and the London Symphony Orchestra.
on 12 September 2004
For some reason I have never fathomed, my mother played the concerto every evening for weeks after my father died: nothing else, no other music at all - just the concerto in G by Ravel.
So I know it quite well and it is a wonderful piece. From the opening whip-crack [literally] the first movement surges along with tremendous energy and angular rhythms, the piano stacatto and percussive, the strings swooping about behind it.
The slow movement has become a Classic-fm play-list fave, regrettably, but as long as you steer clear of Classic-fm, this [along with many other pieces] won't end up being reduced to Muzak for you. It was inevitable C-fm would chop this out of the concerto and dish it up with all the other "easy listening" stuff like "A Lark Ascending" and Barber's "Adagio". It is a supremely lyrical creation. In large part the theme is carried by the flute and then the oboe, the piano taking a step back and softly harmonising behind the wind instruments. Truly, it is a georgeous, rhapsodic, piece of music.
What C-fm don't give you is the crackle and fizz that follows, in the third movement. Back comes the dynamism, the torrent of notes from the piano, as percussive and galvanic as in the first movement. It's exhilarating, intense and bursting with energy.
I'm no arbiter of piano interpretation but Argerich's playing of this piece has retained the approval of the critics over the years, in the face of other recordings of this work. Wonderful Ravel, superbly played.
on 13 August 2013
Having read the other 2 reviews of this CD, I can only add my own plaudits for Martha Argerich's superb performance of the G Major Concerto. This is a true partnership between her and the LSO under Claudio Abbado - each knows when to give place to the other. There are no "prima donnas" here! The opening movement is crisp and clear, and the elements of jazz, which feature a great deal in Ravel, are strong but do not dominate and are thus not intrusive: they blend with the classical mode of the work - however, surely the wonderful jazz-like descending scale which finishes the first movement is infectious, and how wonderfully do soloist and orchestra finish - one almost wants to applaud!
However, it is the slow movement that lingers most in the memory. The limpid waltz-like solo piano melody which opens it is sublime: when the orchestra steals in, the feeling is one of composure - of a group of people who totally blend with each other, and are completely relaxed in each others' company; it is surely a movement to be listened to again and again. The sudden explosion of the finale gives Argerich a chance to demonstrate some formidably fast playing but again all the details are there and Abbado gives as good as he gets! I would rate this as the greatest performance of the Concerto I have heard.
So exquisite is this performance, that I wanted to hear it followed by Argerich performing the D Major Concerto for the Left Hand: it may sound churlish to say that Michel Beroff does not quite manage to come up to her standard. However, this is a good performance - straight-forward, but I wanted just that bit more.
The fill-ins are welcome: the "Menuet Antique" started life as a Piano solo, and was later orchestrated by Ravel; likewise 4 movements of "Le Tombeau de Couperin"; both are very entertaining and make a subtle Impressionist answer to popular and not very memorable salon music.
This CD is recommended both for listeners unfamiliar with Ravel’s work as well as for those requiring definitive performances of the Piano Concerto for the Left Hand (composed in 1930) and the G-major Piano Concerto (1931). Three additional pieces are Le Tombeau de Couperin (1917), the early Menuet antique (1895, Ravel’s earliest regularly performed work), both of which were originally composed for the piano, and the miniature Fanfare for the ballet, ‘L’Éventail de Jeanne (1927).
The London Symphony Orchestra is conducted by Claudio Abbado, 1913-2014, and the soloists are Martha Argerich, b. 1941, [in the Piano Concerto, recorded in 1984] and Michel Béroff, b. 1960, [in the Left Hand Concerto from 1987, the year in which the three orchestral works were also recorded].
It is the two concertos and their performances that are the high spots of this disc. I do not think that Argerich is as temperamentally suited to this work as to, say, Chopin. Whilst she captures the syncopated character of the Allegramente and Presto, first and last movements, respectively and is accompanied subtly by the orchestra, her playing of the intervening Adagio assai is perhaps a little to dreamy.
Béroff, in contrast, plays the Left Hand Concerto superlatively. This work, one of a number, was commissioned by Paul Wittgenstein – brother of the philosopher – who had lost an arm in the Great War. Abbado and his orchestra are very attentive throughout, bringing out the delicacy of the orchestration. This is especially the case in the composer’s orchestral versions of his piano works, in the Le Tombeau de Couperin he cleverly used forces available in the 18th century – have there been better examples of this art?
The performances are very good and the sound quality is excellent. The leaflet text, describing the five works, is by Roger Nichols. Nichols points out that the Couperin was a triple homage – to a vanished musical era, to friends killed in battle, whose names are included in the piano score, and to a respected teacher. He also reports a difference of opinion between Ravel and Wittgenstein. The latter, wanting to make ‘improvements’ stated “Performers must not be slaves”, to which the composer responded “Performers are slaves”.
The performance time is 64’32. The illustration on the cover is Raoul Dufy’s ‘Les affiches à Trouville’, 1906.