Maurice Ravel Volume Two - Artur Pizarro - Fanfare
Fanfare reviews rarely center on the acoustics of a given recording, but there is a synergy here of music, interpretive style, and engineering that results in a uniquely beautiful release. That is not to say that this is going to be everyone’s Ravel. Pizarro has a uniquely poetic manner that can blur the edges of the music at times. This is an album of Ravel’s “homage” piano music; homages to older styles and composers. To my ears, Pizarro has the full measure of the composer’s delicious sensibility of meshing old and new esthetic values. He delivers the Classicism with crisp rhythms and a lucid sense for overall structure. At the same time, he finds the sensuality and gentle poetry that Ravel uses to shape his subjects. There may be a precious quality to his playing for some (other pianists make the music sound “bigger” by applying a wider dynamic range), but I find it wholly appropriate to the music. There is more than a little resemblance to the esthetic of the prewar recordings of Gieseking, although, alas, there is very little Ravel from that era.
Pizarro draws out a wonderful range of color and subtle phrasing in his playing, and it is a delight to hear it on this extraordinary sounding recording. Linn Records is an offshoot of one of the most prestigious music-gear manufacturers in the world. Linn’s audio products are very expensive and often idiosyncratic, but attract deep-felt admiration for their commitment to sheer musicality at the expense of standard commercial considerations in design (How many watts? How many buttons? How big?). Sorry to sound so much like a commercial (I expect no check in the mail), but this philosophy extends to their burgeoning CD catalog, too. On either my solid-state-based or tube system, this CD simply glows, in every respect. The subtlety of the timbral shadings is quite exquisite. The piano has always been one of the most difficult instruments to capture in recording, and here, you swim in the lovely sound.
It should go without saying that the technical aspects of a recording are a means to an end. The sound is wonderful, the playing is even more compelling, and ultimately, we have a group of magical works of art by a great master presented with great care and devotion. It is quite a package, and for me, an instant classic in the Ravel discography.