The Belgian accordionist Philippe Thuriot has been playing on the international stages for 25 years. In 2015, he recorded the Goldberg Variations by J.S. Bach for the Warner Classics / Klara label to international critical acclaim. For this new solo album featuring works by Maurice Ravel and François Couperin, he made arrangements of La Valse, Le Tombeau de Couperin, Alborada del Gracioso and the Menuet Antique.
Figures of modernity in France and in Russia, Prokofiev and Ravel were both interested in older musical forms such as the suite of dances: through a reinvented Baroque language, their compositional research shed light on all the richness of their musical world. Written in times that were marked by the war and the historic upheavals of the early 20th century, Ravel's Le Tombeau de Couperin and Prokofiev's Fourth Sonata are linked to the memory of their dedicatees. Between memory and imagination, the works carry on a dialogue…
There is no need by now to introduce the Quatuor Hermès, which has become the most brilliant of the young generation of French quartets thanks to its solid track record of faultless yet never flashy performances.
Like so many Russian musicians, Mravinsky seemed first headed toward a career in the sciences. He studied biology at St. Petersburg University, but had to quit in 1920 after his father's death. To support himself, he signed on with the Imperial Ballet as a rehearsal pianist. In 1923, he finally enrolled in the Leningrad Conservatory, where he studied composition with Vladimir Shcherbachov and conducting with Alexander Gauk and Nikolai Malko. He graduated in 1931, and left his Imperial Ballet job to become a musical assistant and ballet conductor at the Bolshoi Opera from 1931 to 1937, with a stint at the Kirov from 1934. Mravinsky gave up these posts in 1938, after winning first prize in the All-Union Conductors' Competition in Moscow, to become principal conductor of the Leningrad Philharmonic. He remained there until his death, long ignoring many guest-conducting offers from abroad. Under Mravinsky's direction the Leningrad Philharmonic came to be regarded as one of the finest orchestras in the world, although the world had comparatively few opportunities to hear it aside from the rare tour (about 30 performances in 25 years, starting in 1956), some dim Soviet recordings, and a very few highly acclaimed records for such Western European companies as Deutsche Grammophon and, in the end, Erato.
Valery Gergiev, fresh from his appointment as chief conductor of the Münchner Philharmoniker in 2015, takes his new ensemble to the BBC Proms for a concert of the utmost in drama and vivid musicianship. The brilliant young Uzbek pianist Behzod Abduraimov performs Rachmaninov’s thrillingly virtuosic Piano Concerto No. 3, while the Russian stage and film actor Alexei Petrenko recites the text in Galina Ustvolskaya’s resonant and profound Symphony No. 3 ‘Jesus Messiah, Save Us!’. The programme also features a hypnotic Ravel Boléro, an alternately tender, florid and witty Rosenkavalier Suite, and the rousing Hungarian March by Berlioz.
A solitaire in French is a single mounted jewel, a concept that seems less than apt for the rather hefty works recorded here by British pianist Kathryn Stott. But this fine recital holds together in another way: Ravel, who so often provides the temporal endpoint for traditional piano recitals, is here, to a greater or lesser extent, the launching point for the other three composers featured. Stott's reading of the neoclassical Le Tombeau de Couperin is beautifully precise and balanced, catching the economy of this Baroque-style suite to the hilt. That economy carries over into the later works, even the rarely performed Piano Sonata of Henri Dutilleux, a work that deftly fuses Ravel's sense of classical forms with a largely dissonant language. The opening Prelude and Fugue of Jehan Alain, actually two separate works that are reasonably enough combined here, is another seldom-played piece that makes an arresting curtain-raiser, and the final "Le baiser de l'Enfant Jésus" of Messiaen, part of the giant Vingt regards sur l'Enfant Jésus, is the splendid climax of the whole, its spiritual, dreamlike ascent at the end superbly controlled. Better still is the sound, recorded at Hallé St. Peters in Manchester: it creates a hypnotic effect all its own.
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.