Ravel’s Piano Concertos

For comparison here, primarily he Left-Hand concerto but also considering the G major concerto as it shows up on so many recorded pairings.

Interesting, as a start, that women recorded this work long before it was considered “acceptable” to their 100_2979gender as soloists in the concert hall (or as performers at all). Marguerite Long was one of the first, in an outstanding 1929 record. How is sound gendered? But the record on EMI, in my EMI/HMV French press (COLC 319) hardly belies the age. It is crisp and fresh as this work was intended; the early sonics are a limitation of course, and can’t compare with luxuriousness of later records.

Decades later another female soloist won accolades with her rendition with Paul Paray and the ONF — Monique Haas. It is a sharp and admirable performance and in crisp sound on this early DGG stereo record (138-988), available on CD as one of the “Originals” series. Of the same vintage is Robert Casadesus’s definitive account on CBS, with Ormandy and the Philadelphians:
Both subtle and powerful, with his trademark elegance captured wonderfully in the heyday of Columbia stereo, on a nice 6-eye 100_2978copy I have (MS-6274), available in excellent transfers on CD. An outlier is Julius Katchen, paired with his weird fast-time rendition of Rhapsody in Blue, on Decca (SXL-6411). The Katchen business is all too fast, snappy,100_2989 and not a Dvorak Overture (as much as Maestro Kertesz excelled at that).

Some later versions100_2985 worth noting are Ciccolini’s record with Martinon, from his complete 100_2973quadraphonic Ravel cycle of the 1970s with the ORTF. The sound is voluptuous and 4-channel in its finest, but the performance is a bit on the vapid side, more melodrama than drama. There’s a bit too much pounding of the bass notes, even though they come through brilliantly in the sonics. In that regard no one can really match Rogé and Dutoit for modern records, in their 1983 Montreal performance. He combines the quiet pianism of Long and Haas with the strength of Casadesus. And as far as the recording goes, there’s no hint of digital edginess —  though it should be noted that the super brightness on CD was not there on the vinyl, which has a very warm acoustic that fits the work perfectly.


About Jonathan Riehl

Jonathan Riehl writes and teaches communications, rhetoric, and American politics. He used to be a Republican. View all posts by Jonathan Riehl

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