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Reviews: Ravel, Debussy, Massenet - Jean-Efflam Bavouzet

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Reviews: 4

Site review by Polly Nomial October 25, 2010
Performance:   Sonics:  
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Review by Jonalogic November 5, 2010 (9 of 12 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Hallelujah! Put out the fatted calf! At last a thoroughly recommendable set of the Ravel Piano Concertos on SACD.

When reviewing the (manifestly) sub-par efforts of Roge on Oehms, I commented that we had to retrieve our vinyl and - even - RBCD to hear these works performed well. But we can now safely return these to the shelves.

Bavouzet, the BBCSO and Tortelier are clearly of one mind in these performances. Bavouzet's playing is refined, sophisticated and just has precisely the right degree of distanced Gallic passion. To sum it up in one word - elegant. The pieces flow and are structured immaculately. In short, these are thoroughly engaging, exciting and idiomatic performances.

And the fill-ups? The Massenet solo piano pieces are tuneful, interesting and pleasant miniatures. However, I must say I find the Debussy Fantasie which opens the disc - frankly - inconsequential and eminently unmemorable.

The sound quality is superb throughout - with one small proviso I will come to in a minute. The piano tone is liquid, focussed and refined. The whole recording is superbly crystalline and transparent, in the best Chandos manner. As a result, every strand of the delicate orchestration in these pieces is beautifully revealed.

Now the small proviso- but this is more of a slight disagreement on a matter of taste with PN. The piano is nicely set in a mid-hall perspective. However, I then find the orchestra a tad too close- in other words, the piano and orchestra are rather inhabiting the same acoustic space; I would have preferred greater distancing of the latter, in normal Chandos house style.

That would indeed - as PN points out - produce more 'bloom'. But I would prefer to call it hall sound - and welcome it!

But let's not quibble over minutiae. Bottom line, this is a fine and wholly recommendable disc.

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Review by sylvian November 17, 2010 (2 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
I have lent some time to this particular disc to grow on in my ears.

Up to this release I have been very pleased and satisfied with the Supraphon release of Ravel's concertos with Boris Krajny and Prague Chamber Orchestra under Jiri Belohlavek. While Debussy's underrated Fantasie is a complete surprise for me (I have no other example to compare with) the Ravel's piano concerto's in G and the Lefthanded one needed some time to find musical brilliance in them. Not an easy task for the performers. Especially Lefthanded piano concerto begins and ends with bass instruments played in a very low key. This one brings to mind the closing of Sailor's Tale from King Crimson Islads album also fading out in a very low key, which only recently have been clarified by Mr. Fripp that this has been acheived by artificial manipulation in the studio.

While Jiri Belohlavek with Prague Chamber Orchestra has dealt Lefthanded properly Yan-Pascal Tortelier attitude is somewhat different and one would definitely need some time to get into that.

This music is very recommended to Art-Nouveaux enthusiasts and also to everyone who admires masterful piano work!

Final result: Best CHANDOS release of the year 2010.

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Review by gonzostick May 12, 2011 (2 of 12 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  

This is disc contains the most prosaic and pedestrian performance of the middle movement of the Ravel Concerto in G that I have ever heard. Bavouzet and Tortelier sound like they are in such a hurry they completely miss the point of the most beautiful, lyrical melody composed by Maurice Ravel. There is NO poetry or calm here, just efficiency and dash, and that is a shame. The conductor cannot resist the temptation to rush at the climax, instead of just letting Ravel play out.

Yes, the sound is good, though the English Horn solo in the Concerto in G starts way too soft. But, dynamics aside, this performance CANNOT stand next to the best, in spite of its lustrous sonics. Yes, the recording is excellent in surround, but Tortelier messes this one up just like his pedestrian Faure Requiem on the same label... Yes, Bavouzet is very facile on the keyboard, but so are hundreds of piano machines in the world, at present.

The best performances of the Ravel Concerto in G are still on EMI RBCD: Benedetti-Michelangeli, and Collard. The sound on the former is better as the Collard is a distant recording that sometimes clots in climaxes.

It's great to have the Debussy and Ravel pieces on the same disc, but this is NO bargain... So, put the fatted calf back on ice and bring out the French Turkey... Still, a better performance of the Debussy work is on an EMI dts disc of concerted works, now out of print. The Debussy is not the most successful work from the pen of the composer.

My copy is headed for the second-hand disc shop... UGH

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