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Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Fantaisie for piano and orchestra (1889) [24.43]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Ballade for piano and orchestra (1881) [15.26]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Piano Concerto in G (1929-31) [22.37]
Valerie Tryon (piano)
Royal Philharmonic Orcherstra/Jac Van Steen
rec. Henry Wood Hall, London, 7-8 September 2014
SOMM SOMMCD258 [63.15]

It is a real pleasure to review this the third SOMM CD featuring the talent of Valerie Tryon When I reviewed her second Rachmaninov, Richard Strauss and Dohnányi CD in September 2014 she was just about to celebrate her eightieth birthday. I am ungallant enough to mention this again for the reason outlined below when I reach her Ravel Concerto reading. Readers might be interested in seeing the video of Melanie Spanswick interviewing Ms Tryon as a follow-up to her first SOMM anthology. In the interview, and by the way the attractive Ms Tryon looks so young, she is relaxed and good-humoured; she explains her technique and I was impressed with her vital yet subtle and penetrating performances. What a psychological shot in the arm for us more mature folk; I am only slightly younger than Ms Tryon.

Debussy was in his late twenties when he composed his Fantaisie. It has never been very popular, maybe because it is not so ‘flashily virtuosic’ as so many others written during the Late-Romantic period. The piano part is regarded more as part of the orchestral fabric. That is not to say that Ms Tryon’s task is relatively easy for the score is dense and she is called upon to provide intricate and dense arpeggios and decorative passage-work which she delivers in a reading both lucid and poetic. The opening movement seems to inhabit a misty magical landscape reminiscent of L’Après-midi d’un faune. The second Lento e molto espressivo movement is again very languid; the atmosphere sensual, almost fragrant. The music is lyrical, yearning. The finale awakens us to a more playful mood, witty but sweetly contented too and with a nostalgic twist. It ends in triumph.

Fauré’s Ballade began life as a work for solo piano. He played it for Franz Liszt who, it is believed, suggested he added an orchestral accompaniment. The result is an engaging piece typical of the composer and redolent of nostalgia and wistfulness.

Listening to Tryon’s reading of Ravel’s Concerto in G major, I made notes that I thought the middle movement was rather detached in comparison to some of my favourite recordings. Then I read with great interest that Valerie Tryon had studied piano in Paris with Jacques Février whose father had been a colleague of Ravel and he had been present when Marguerite Long was learning the Ravel G major concerto for the premiere in 1932. More interestingly and specifically in relation to this recording Tryon said “Février had definite ideas as to how this repertoire should be interpreted. He was quite strict on matters of tempo and mood, and made me change a number of interpretations I brought to him … Février also taught me the French jeu perlé playing.” The opening movement reminded me much more than has been the case of some recordings of Gershwin and his Rhapsody in Blue that was composed some five years earlier. At this point I must add my praise for the consistently high quality of accompaniment that Jac Van Steen and the RPO provide. Tryon’s reading in this jazzy movement is sharp with plenty of dynamism and attack. So too is her reading of the exuberant mercurial Presto finale.

Having said all that I have to confess that if I had to choose a single recording of the Ravel G major Concerto it would have to be the celebrated Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli reading coupled with the Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 4 with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Ettore Gracis on one of EMI’s Great Recordings of the Century reissues (review review).

Another treat from the remarkable talent that is Valerie Tryon.

Ian Lace



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