Ravel - Pizarro - ClassicsToday.com

Within seconds after Jeux d'eau begins this Ravel recital, we're on sonic red alert. Is the Teatro São Luis' overly resonant, muddy acoustic to blame, or is it just an overdose of sustain pedal? Or perhaps the problem is pianist Artur Pizarro's sedate basic tempo and poker-faced demeanor? Similar blurring compromises clarity throughout much of the Miroirs, although here Pizarro's tempos are right on target. He stands out in Alborada del gracioso, maintaining a strict, loping gait and giving strong profile to left-hand countermelodies. In La Valse, the acoustic minimizes dynamic contrasts and textural differentiation, notwithstanding some truly pulverizing fingerwork in the final peroration.

However, the diffuse sonics better absorb Gaspard da la nuit's watery subtext and mysterious, shimmering qualities. The latter are beautifully illuminated by virtue of Pizarro's absolute respect for Ravel's text and impressive tonal control. His bracing, uncomplicated, and effortlessly shaped Ondine is a kindred spirit with Gieseking's legendary 1939 shellac recording. Le Gibet is rock steady and hypnotically sustained: the widely spaced chords are voiced in perfect proportion to the repeated B-flats and single-note melodies. Scarbo's formidable pianistic challenges don't faze Pizarro one bit, even if his suave, unflappable poise sidesteps the demonic undercurrents so vividly characterized by Pogorelich and his imitators. Obviously this disc faces superior sonic and interpretive catalog competition--but what a phenomenal Gaspard!

21 May 2007