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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    


FRENCH PIANO DUETS
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)
Jeux d'enfants
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Ma Mère l'Oye
La valse
Philip Moore & Simon Crawford-Phillips
Rec 26-27 February 2001, St George's Brandon Hill, Bristol
DEUX-ELLES DXL 10405 [60.00]

Deux-Elles

 

The piano duet of Philip Moore and Simon Crawford-Phillips is an eminently talented combination, working effectively together in the service of the music they perform. And this thoughtfully compiled programme of French music gives them ample opportunity to display their talents.

Two of the four items are by Ravel, and it is his arrangement of Debussy's celebrated Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune which opens the recital. This languid music is not at first sight suited to a piano arrangement, but Ravel knew his craft and loved the work, to the extent that he described it as 'the only music I know which is absolutely perfect'. To perform this version of the score is a great challenge, to which these artists respond with taste and sensitivity, aided by an atmospheric recording which also allows details to be heard with the utmost clarity.

The charming sequence of miniatures which make up Bizet's Jeux d'enfants are also tellingly done, and the music gains considerably from the attention to details of dynamic nuance which add an important extra dimension.

Ravel's Mother Goose also exists as a ballet and an orchestral suite, and each version is equally valid, which is a tribute to the composer's imagination and technical command. Balances are expertly projected, for which all praise too to the recording engineers, and the little touches of nuance and phrasing are a constant delight. Perhaps the more languid passages, for example in the Pavane de la Belle au bois dormant and Petit Poucet, could be more tender still (compare the recent rival EMI version by Laurence Fromentin and Dominique Placade: 5 72526-2), but this is still very pleasing.

The final item, Ravel's La valse, is heard in a duet arrangement by Lucien Garban. This is altogether sterner, stronger stuff, and the pianists respond with gusto to the challenge of the quasi-orchestral thrust which is often present. If the result leaves the listener thirsting for the orchestral original, it is still exciting in its own right.

Terry Barfoot



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