This stunning and generous collection belongs right at the top of the heap in its respective repertoire. The Debussy is still a comparative rarity in concert if not on disc, a remarkable fact given that it's wholly gorgeous from first note to last. Jean-Efflam Bavouzet's excellence as a Debussy pianist already has been acknowledged by just about everyone who has heard him, and needs no further advertisement here. The performance is outstanding, sensitive to every nuance, but also very French in its clear-eyed sensibility and understanding that focused rhythm and supple tempos prevent the music from turning excessively sentimental or blandly pretty. And in Tortelier, Bavouzet has a conductor who seconds him every step of the way. A similar sensibility informs these swift, razor-sharp, and utterly thrilling accounts of the two Ravel concertos. That for the left hand seldom has sounded so exciting, or in its jazzy central march section, so sinister. Listen to the bite that both soloist and orchestra bring to that descending scale theme, and notice the way Bavouzet shapes his cadenza so as to preserve the illusion of multiple parts played by multiple hands–all without slowing down at the tough passages. It's really an amazing performance by any standard. Even the dark opening, often merely murky on other recordings, has shape and urgency, the buildup to the initial entry of the piano creating incredible tension.
By virtue of their diverse styles and extraordinary technical demands, Ravel's solo piano works present a daunting challenge to anyone who would record them as a complete set. From the sublime Pavane pour une infante défunte and the crystalline Sonatine, to the dazzling impressionism of Miroirs and the nightmarish intricacies of Gaspard de la nuit, Ravel's keyboard music reflects all aspects of his spontaneous imagination and his involved artistic development. Few performers have completely mastered this complex body of work and recorded it superbly, but versatile Canadian pianist Louis Lortie is in that select company. His 1988 performances have been esteemed for their consistency, sensitivity, and compelling energy, and this reissue from Chandos is likely to garner even more praise for Lortie. Previously available in two volumes, this double disc is newly remastered, and Lortie sounds better than ever, particularly in such exquisite works as Le tombeau de Couperin and Valses nobles et sentimentales. Lortie's careful shading of subordinate lines and subtle use of dynamics in his coloristic effects invite repeated listening. Best of all, he captures Ravel's dry wit and irony with his mannered shaping of gestures, most effectively in Le tombeau, the Sérénade grotesque, and the Menuet antique.
"Was Lorin Maazel und sein Orchester hier bieten, stellt an Klarheit und Präzision alles mir Bekannte in Sachen Ravel in den Schatten." ~FonoForum 6/1984
"…The recording does, in fact, have a very wide dynamic range – not much use for playing in the car, where the soft passages would be drowned by road noise, unless you have a top-of-the-range limo, and the louder sections would seriously impair your driving, like the head-banging bass sounds one hears, usually emanating from black cars with heavily tinted windows. With ironic inevitability, the moment I typed those words I was disturbed by just such a noise from a car in a traffic queue outside! Even in domestic situations it is hard to cope with such a wide range; most of us have neighbours to consider and, even with good loudspeakers, quieter passages lack presence if played at a lower volume…"
One of the most versatile musicians on the planet, André Previn has amassed considerable credentials as a jazz pianist, despite carving out separate lives first as a Hollywood arranger and composer, and then as a world-class classical conductor, pianist, and composer. Always fluid, melodic, and swinging, with elements of Bud Powell, Oscar Peterson, and Horace Silver mixed with a faultless technique, Previn didn't change much over the decades but could always be counted upon for polished, reliable performances at the drop of a hat…
Editorial Reviews- Amazon.com
What a potent combo: Maurice Ravel and Leonard Bernstein. Boléro slowly comes to a steady boil without any ingredients overflowing. By contrast, in Alborada del Gracioso and La Valse, Bernstein thoroughly revels in his French orchestra's watery brass and silvery string tuttis. Back in Manhattan, the Daphnis and Chloé suite and Rapsodie Espagnol are lusty without ever sounding vulgar. Some might find the miking a hair spotlit for their tastes, but Ravel's breathtaking orchestration can withstand such scrutiny. So can Bernstein and company. An ingratiating release. –Jed Distler