[ ASV Decca Australian Eloquence / 2 CD ]
Release Date: Friday 14 June 2019
Recorded for the ASV label in 1990, this collection of Ravel's piano music has never previously been released complete. Now reissued for the first time in more than a decade, this set presents not the kind of coolly objective view of the fastidious composer-craftsman that modern recordings have accustomed us to, but more of a poet in sound and in touch with his Basque origins.
The piano was for Ravel the principal medium of musical thought, and his approach to the instrument was at once lavish and precise. Lisztian virtuosity is entwined with an antique spirit of French dance in both the darkly Impressionist Gaspard de la nuit and the much gentler strains of the Valses nobles et sentimentales. Likewise Jeux d'eau takes its inspiration from a Lisztian template while Le tombeau de Couperin pays deeply affectionate tribute both to friends killed in the First World War and to an imagined Eden of formal manners and gentility, presumed lost forever.
Although his repertoire ranges from Bach to Webern, Gordon Fergus-Thompson has won particular renown as a Franco-Russian specialist in command of the most technically challenging repertoire by the likes of Balakirev. Following the reissue of his complete Scriabin recordings, and his renowned Debussy, Eloquence brings back another pair of albums which find the pianist in his element: rhythmically free yet in complete control of Ravel's fastidiously exacting scores; timbrally refined yet abandoned to the Viennese excess of La valse as well as the blurred, dream-like moods of the Miroirs.
'Fergus-Thompson sounds sparkier and freer, with a gentler flow of tone and more space in the recording … There's no problem, at least, about brilliance of effect. The finale of the Sonatine finds more vigour and purpose, and some of the minor pieces have an attractive light touch.' BBC Music Magazine
'Fergus-Thompson […] confirms his calibre and status as a distinguished, most individual Francophile … Even the most experienced Ravelians will find themselves returning to these finely recorded accounts for a special and magical enlightenment.' Gramophone, October 1993
1-8 Valses Nobles et Sentimentales, M.61
9-11 Gaspard de la Nuit, M.55
12 Jeux d'eau
13-18 Le Tombeau de Couperin, M.68
2-6 Miroirs, M.43
7 Menuet sur le nom de Haydn
8 Menuet antique
9 Sérénade grotesque
10-12 Sonatine, M.40
13 À la manière de… Borodine
14 À la manière de… Chabrier
15 Pavane pour une infant défunte