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Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Le Tombeau de Couperin (1913-17) [23:46]
Jeux d’eau (1901) [6:09]
Sonatine (1903) [11:56]
Pavane pour une infant défunte (1899) [6:54]
Gaspard de la nuit (1908) [22:36]
Kathryn Stott (piano)
rec. 1990, St George’s Church, Brandon Hill, Bristol, UK
ALTO ALC1279 [71:56]

Kathryn Stott recorded this Ravel disc for Conifer a quarter of a century ago – a frightening thought to her contemporaries, as it seems only yesterday that she first appeared on the concert stage. It’s now reissued by Alto complete with cover art by John Atkinson Grimshaw.

She showed enviable affiliations for French music even then and her Ravel is almost always consistently persuasive. Le Tombeau de Couperin is invariably a compelling test both of virtuosity and stylistic affiliation. Her tempi are largely admirable and if some of the dynamics in the Prélude are somewhat abrupt, and she sometimes lacks Gieseking’s mastery of phraseology, she demonstrates her confidence and technical prowess. She takes a Giesking tempo for the Forlane and brings apposite well-balanced colouration to the Menuet. The unremitting demands of the Toccata are well met though not even Stott can quite traverse them without her technique being severely tested.

One booklet layout oddity is that Jeux d’eau is affixed to Le Tombeau, looking for all the world to the initiated as if it were the final piece. Marked ‘très douce’ Stott could afford to be a little more vivacious here as it sounds just a little careful. The Sonatine is played with reflective simplicity. There are subtle and supple refinements of colour and texture throughout and she doesn’t seek to replicate Gieseking’s very fast tempo for the opening movement. Similarly her Pavane is very affectionately shaped and warmly contoured but whilst many will respond to these qualities, others may well prefer a less lingering tempo No pianist can relish without some moment of self-reflection the riveting demands of Gaspard de la nuit. It’s in Le gibet that she is at her best and this is a truly atmospheric performance, very communicatively done, visceral in its tension.

The recording in the popular recording venue of St George’s Church, Brandon Hill, Bristol was very well judged and the notes fine. This is a pleasing restoration, but whether it appeals depends on whether a single disc is to be preferred over a more wide-ranging affair including Miroirs and, say, the Valses nobles et sentimentales.
Jonathan Woolf



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