Maurice Ravel Volume Two - Artur Pizarro - Audiophile Audition

It has taken more than a year for Linn to release the second and concluding volume of the complete Ravel piano music by Pizarro, but it's worth the wait.  Reproduced in just two channels there seems to my ears a bit too much reverberation, but in the five-channel surround mode Pizarro's Bluthner concert grand sounds just about right - and free from the ear-drilling treble end of Steinways.  Linn's engineers put quite a low level on the center channel. The sonics don't detract from the precise, chiseled sound of much of Ravel's music - his take on impressionism was quite different from Debussy's, but it worked just as well - almost more magically.

The works in this volume aren't as oriented to the water element as in the first.  The two major pieces are the Noble and Sentimental Waltzes and The Tomb of Couperin - the latter perhaps more familiar to most listeners in its orchestral version.  The delightful waltzes are harmonically complex and seem to be working up to the composer's later growling gem La Valse. The eighth and final waltz is the longest, and brings back most of the previous waltzes as an epilogue.  Three movements in the middle of The Tomb of Couperin are dance forms, the first being the Forlane. This was an obscure dance of the 17th and 18th centuries in Venice which Ravel had substituted for a planned tango, which had been felt by the Pope to be too lascivious (the work was being performed at the Vatican).  The clarity and balance of this six-movement suite make it - in either this piano original or the chamber orchestra version - one of the great classics of Neoclassical style.

15 October 2008