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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best modern recording available, 22 April 2003
This review is from: Ravel: Piano Concertos, Valses nobles et sentimentales (Audio CD)
Of several recordings of Ravel's Piano Concertos available, this is sonically and muscially the best.
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. Listen to the horrendously difficult full-compass arpeggios at the end of the D Major Concerto...if you can, because they almost disappear. Shame, because one can almost imagine three hands playing these closing bars, not just one!
Perhaps Benedetti Michelangeli's recording of the G Major Concerto can compete on warmth and tang (and, while not quite so hi-fi, is an excellent recorded performance, beautiful in tone and coupled with Rachmaninov's Concerto No 4). Samson Francois' recordings, alas, are not in the running.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitive recording of the Ravel concertos, 4 Jun 2002
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Simon Barrow (Exeter, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Ravel: Piano Concertos, Valses nobles et sentimentales (Audio CD)
Ravel's Piano Concerto in G was the work that convinced me to start taking a serious interest in jazz. I don't know whether it has had anything like the same effect on the tonally ascetic Pierre Boulez, but we should all be genuinely grateful for his masterful guidance of the Cleveland Orchestra on this wonderful recording. Rich and detailed, the orchestral sound ideally complements the striking sensitivity of Krystian Zimerman's performance. (Boulez feels this work in his bones, a fact which leaves you sensing that he is suppressing an unexpected dimension to his musical personality in some of the more ideological postures he strikes on twentieth century music.)
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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtaking Ravel, 27 Oct 2011
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S. W. Buck (East Riding of Yorkshire) - See all my reviews
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I have alway's admired the Ravel piano concerto's since I first heard the Julius Katchen-LSO recording on Decca. This recording has now become my favourite because the recording is very good and the orchestral accompanyment is first class. In the G concerto the finale is taken at breathtaking speed making it all the better. All in all this CD is highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The modern complement to Michelangeli for the g major concerto, 6 Jun 2013
By 
I. Giles (Argyll, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ravel: Piano Concertos, Valses nobles et sentimentales (Audio CD)
This disc, compiled from recordings made in 1994 and 1996 and with two orchestras in two venues, nevertheless delivers a remarkably consistent level of inspiration, playing and supportive recording qualities. The slightly warmer ambiance of the London recording given to the Left Hand concerto makes sense compared to the cooler world of the G major concerto and Valses from Cleveland.

The glue that binds the music making is, of course, the superb pianism of Zimerman who seems ideally tuned to the fastidious world of Ravel on the one hand coupled with Boulez's dispassionate style of music making on the other. If that seems too analytical for musical satisfaction, then the total result in practice is a set of performances that can be compared with the finest available from the last 50 years and not to its ultimate disadvantage. The G major concerto as played by Michelangeli has been a yardstick by which all others have been compared since it was first issued. Most subsequent performances have yielded to such a comparison but in this case Zimerman is able to rise successfully to the challenge aided by more modern recording. His performance of the Left Hand concerto is equally fine so for those looking for a coupling of the two concertos, this makes a strong case for consideration.

The Valses are treated to a coolly dispassionate performance by the Cleveland orchestra under the very watchful eye of Boulez. This suits the nature of the set very well and their inclusion on the disc acts as a suitable interlude between the two concertos.

In conclusion I would suggest that this disc deserves very serious consideration as a potential purchase especially from those interested in the two concertos. The Valses simply enhance that attraction.
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3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine performance but lacks fire, 10 Aug 2009
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Scriabinmahler (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ravel: Piano Concertos, Valses nobles et sentimentales (Audio CD)
As you expect, Zimerman gives wonderfully refined and thoughtful performance of the both concertos. The slow movement of G major concerto is most beautifully played with admirable delicacy. However, outer movements lacks fire, and the real sense of boisterousness is replaced by careful attention to detail. Boulez' cool headed way with the orchestra matches well with Zimerman's miticulously planned playing, but to me this is too civilized a performance to call great. It can neither match the transcendental beauty (2nd movement) and the daring aggressiveness of Michelangeli's great recording nor the explosive performance by Collard.
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Ravel: Piano Concertos, Valses nobles et sentimentales
Ravel: Piano Concertos, Valses nobles et sentimentales by Krystian Zimerman (Audio CD - 1999)
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