Angela Hewitt’s recordings of French piano music have received the highest critical acclaim, her ‘tenderness, Gallic wit, verve, and—the most important ingredient of all—charm’ proving perfect for works by Chabrier, Debussy, Ravel and indeed Rameau and Couperin. Now she turns to a composer who is more serious and introspective, with a refinement that has led to him being relatively overlooked by performers. But in Angela Hewitt’s hands this music is an utter joy.
A seminal figure of French Romantic music, Camille Saint-Saëns was also a great keyboard prodigy. The Études, Op 52 unite exuberant virtuosity with shimmering delicacy, while the Six Études, Op 111 pay homage to Chopin and Bach as well as anticipating Ravel’s impressionism. The neo-Baroque Op 135, for left hand alone, is modelled on Couperin and Rameau.
Pierre Boulez and Anne Sofie von Otter collaborate on this beautiful disc with exceptional works by the most important composers of the Impressionist movement in classical music. The six-movement piano suite Le Tombeau de Couperin was a tribute to the whole of 18th Century French music.
Ravel wrote it between 1914 and 1917, during which time he was serving as a lorry driver near the front, and each of the movements is dedicated to a friend killed in the fighting.
The exotic formed a notable element of Ravel's musical taste and consequently his well-known song cycle Shéhérazade with Debussyan textures and harmonies is gilded with an oriental glitter - a grateful task for a singer like Anne Sofie von Otter who can show all the colorful shades of her voice.
Chopin's two piano concertos have long been admired more as pianistic vehicles than as integrated works for piano and orchestra. But in his revelatory new recording, Krystian Zimerman suggests otherwise: The opening orchestral tuttis have so much more light, shade, orchestral color, and detail, you wonder if they've been rewritten. Every gesture, every instrumental solo is so specifically characterized that by the time the piano makes a dramatic entrance, the pieces have become operas without words.
The emotional content, lyricism and direct appeal of Gavin Bryars’s music are unique, reflecting a contemporary composer’s absorption and transformation of several centuries of musical craftsmanship in order to reflect his, and our, own epoch. Originally written for harpsichord, After Handel’s Vesper is a strong illustration of Bryars’s post-minimal interests in early music repertoire. Ramble on Cortona, derived from 13th-century music, makes expressive use of the piano’s resonant qualities, while in the highly-coloured, almost impressionistic The Solway Canal, landscapes pass by as if in a dream.