Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Piano Concerto for the Left Hand (1929-31) [18:51]
Piano Concerto in G major (1929-31) [22:22]
Miroirs for Piano solo (1905) [29:19] (Noctuelles [4;53]; Oiseaux tristes [4;09]; Une barque sur l’océan [7:58]; Alborada del gracioso [6:31]; La Vallée des cloches [6:08])
Pierre-Laurent Aimard (piano)
Cleveland Orchestra/Pierre Boulez
rec. February 2010, Severance Hall, Cleveland, USA.
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 477 8770 [70:32]
Right from the start this is quite a different, well-thought-out reading of Ravel’s Concerto for the Left Hand. There’s that brooding idiosyncratic opening, that deep double-bassoon growling so mysteriously, so eerily threatening. Aimard joins in this searching performance, probing Ravel’s dark corners and caressing the concerto’s contrasting tender pages. Boulez makes this extraordinary work’s marching rhythms crisp and crunching; its playful passages glitter. This recording is as arresting as Boulez’s DG recording with Krystian Zimerman.
The performance of Ravel’s colourful G major Concerto is equally astute. Aimard’s technically-accomplished playing dazzles - just listen to those shimmering runs and arpeggios in the outer movements. It is beautifully nuanced, by turns jazzy, skittishly witty, poignant, ironic and dramatic. Boulez’s accompaniment dovetails and adds so many exquisite little details. Aimard’s opening solo passage in the second movement is more measured than I remember of many performances. This is a case of emotion recollected in a more melancholic tranquillity - a deeply-felt elegy for the fallen of the Great War? Boulez is equally wistful and regretful. Not quite as memorable as either the DG Argerich/Abbado or the EMI Michelangeli/Gracis recordings, this one, is nevertheless very good.
The sound for both concertos is excellent with the dynamics being wide and the recording delivering excellent clarity.
The solo musical pictures that comprise Miroirs make an excellent and substantial programme filler. The opening evocation of Moths (Noctuelles) fluttering around in the twilight is keenly observed and there is an emotional response that provides contrast and is intriguingly enigmatic. Aimard’s Oiseaux tristes (Sad Birds) progresses mournfully with a dramatic interlude seeming to suggest combat and the death of a member of the flock. The piece explores diverse patterns and moods. The shiftings and shimmerings of water and sunlight are nicely observed in Une barque sur l’océan (A boat on the ocean) - a mostly serene voyage with just a little turbulence. Alborado del gracioso (The Fool’s Dawn Song) is a recital favourite. It’s another skittish sketch in Spanish idiom with Aimard conquering those demanding, twisting rhythms with élan. Completing the pictures, the song of the bells, La Vallée des cloches (The Valley of the Bells) is a rapturous evocation of many bells echoing across a valley. This intones a lovely, nostalgic melody alongside a fine study in counterpoint. The music is enchantingly read by Aimard.
An excellent recording of a terrific partnership between soloist and orchestra and of beautifully sculpted solo performances.
Ian Lace  

An excellent recording of a terrific partnership between soloist and orchestra and of beautifully sculpted solo performances.