This pair of discs, very realistically recorded in 2003 on a 1901 Steinway, exhibit all the favourable characteristics of Bavouzet to be found copiously in his extensive coverage of Debussy's piano music which followed this set. The sound of the 1901 piano takes us closer to the sounds envisaged by Ravel than a modern piano.
Bavouzet brings a clear modern approach to these works but without any of the Gallic reserve or coolness to be found elsewhere in such favoured recordings such as that by Thibaudet. Nor does he bring the level of drama and excitement that Ashkenazy provides in his very Russian but satisfying alternative readings for example.
Bavouzet has a warmth of expression and touch that stops short of any form of personal intervention between himself and the written note. On the face of it there is a similarity between Bavouzet and Thibaudet in their quest for unbiased accuracy and faithfulness to the score. However there is a marked difference in the 'temperature' or warmth of their actual playing that makes the two players really very different in their musical effect. I choose these two pianists for comparison simply because they are both French, both modern and their discs appeared within a relatively short time of each other, in effect the same recorded generation.
Without going into a detailed analysis of these discs, piece by piece, I would suggest that Bavouzet provides the human face of Ravel rather like he has done with the music of Debussy. This is not idiosyncratic playing but an obvious attempt to give us what Ravel wrote but delivered with warm affection.
In conclusion I would suggest that this complete two disc survey of Ravel's solo piano music by Bavouzet deserves serious consideration from collectors interested in either an 'only' version or those interested in multiple comparative versions.
on 29 July 2007
Like many of Amazon reviewers I am not really competent to offer a professional review of "Classical" music- I can't tell B sharp from A flat- but this record is a stonker. There is an odd squeak, but read the notes, you maybe think Ravel is too modern to be played on original instruments? There is just enough music here to give two full discs, some of which is bound to be familiar. I hesitate to say whether this would make a definitive Ravel set, simply because I've not heard them all, nor even most of them, but Bavouzet sounds like a pianist with personality but not idiosycracy. Before CDs took over I had five LPs of Gaspard de la Nuit so querks in this piece at least would jar- they don't, this has no impression of sounding the way an unfamiliar recording can, it is quite natural and "right", excellent sound, a consistent "personality" without being eccentric- I hear Bavouzet has a Debussy disc out now, if Amazon stock it I will buy one immediately on the strength of his Ravel.