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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Piano favourites

Pavane pour une infante défunte
Prélude
Valses nobles et sentimentales (excerpts)
Le Tombeau de Couperin (excerpts)
Sonatine
Miroirs (excerpts)
Gaspard de la nuit

François-Joël Thiollier, piano
Recorded at Studio Ned Music, Boulogne, France,
November 1993 and January 1994.
NAXOS 8.555798 [75.07]


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Ravel's piano music is, in this writer's opinion, by turns, some of the most moving and entertaining written in the 20th century, even if it rarely approaches the distinction of some of his chamber music (Piano Trio, Introduction and Allegro, String Quartet, Violin Sonata, Cello Sonata etc.). On the face of it, this bargain price compilation offers a good, varied introduction to this repertoire. However, its main problem is the formidable competition it faces, even in the lower price bracket, from the likes of Pascal Rogé (Decca). It also, unsatisfactorily in my opinion, offers only excerpts of three major works chosen for inclusion.

These performances have been drawn from previously issued discs and I have lived with some of them (e.g. Alborada del Gracisoso, Jeux d'eau) for several years, as part of a generally excellent compilation tape (The Best of Ravel), which has provided many hours of in-car entertainment. Thiollier has also recorded the piano concertos for Naxos but, although many of his interpretations of the solo piano works are highly enjoyable, there are others (some included here) that seem unnecessarily rushed and/or mannered, although there is no set pattern to this.

This is not a bad disc, and probably worth the asking price, but the musical logic of including only selections from the more extended main works eludes me, especially when the pieces in question are often some of the best played on the disc. Although taken in isolation, the performances are better than adequate, they do not really withstand comparison with the best in the field (nor do the recordings). Also the track listing seems to co-opt the Menuet sur le nom de Haydn into the Valses nobles et sentimentales. In all honesty, when Naxos are now releasing material of the quality of, for instance, the recent Moeran and Lilburn discs, this type of release does nothing for the company's growing reputation. If back catalogue re-release/repackaging is now a label priority, why not have a closer look at the Marco Polo archives - the recent Naxos reisuues from it have been, to a disc, remarkable bargains, but there is plenty more where that came from. How about, and these are just a very few random, off the cuff examples, Maurice Emmanuel, the Moeran cello sonata disc, South African orchestral music?

Neil Horner


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