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Ravel: Gaspard De La Nuit; Carter / Aimard

Release Date: 06/21/2005 
Label:  Warner Classics   Catalog #: 62160   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Maurice RavelElliott Carter
Performer:  Pierre-Laurent Aimard
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 59 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Elliott Carter wrote Night Fantasies over the course of a year and a half, finishing just two months before the premiere in 1980 by Ursula Oppens, one of four dedicatees. That the other three, Charles Rosen, Gilbert Kalish, and the late Paul Jacobs, were among the most important champions of contemporary music at that time, and that the piece continues to fascinate and compel pianists to discover this large and bristling score speaks to it’s importance as a work of art. Now we have this remarkable pairing with another great 20th-century piano opus inspired by the sunless world, Gaspard de la nuit, of Ravel. These are two very different works, of course, the main distinction being the harmonic language. Carter is far more abstract, which is Read more also significant in his topic. Ravel’s subject matter may be fantastical, but it does occur in a waking state, and it is rendered in a flowing narrative. Carter’s piece is as powerful an evocation of the dream world as any music I know. When I was listening to it with my 13-year-old daughter, I told her that I thought the composer was trying to create the sound of dreams. She heard merely nightmare music. With all due respect for her normally insightful commentary, the difference in our views was dictated by age and experience, for Carter’s dreamworld is very much that of an adult. There is not a substance to speak of, but an eerily familiar stream of consciousness, with the connections made by psychological nuance and bolting, sudden emotional turns.

Carter’s remarkable late-in-life burst of creativity and ceaseless imagination continues with the shorter piano works also included here. 90+ refers to his age, apparently, while the two Diversions are an almost Baroque exploration of structure and flow. Carter has a reputation for steely intellectualism, and it is impossible to appreciate this music without actively thoughtful listening, but that process will also peel away a skin to reveal a gently trickling sensuality.

Ravel’s great masterpiece is almost overexposed these days, and so it is good to find Aimard in an individualistic frame of mind about his interpretation. Aimard seems to play everything from Beethoven to Messiaen with an extraordinary feel for texture and clarity, and, as a corollary, a dry tonality. This is a sort of anti-traditionalist reading, a far cry from, say, the oozing, liquidy sound of Nojima. As such, this is, for my ears, a fresh and highly satisfying reading, in no way disrespectful to the composer’s vision. That same approach is ideal in the music of Carter.

This release also includes a separate CD, listed as an “illustrated” talk by Aimard. Just don’t expect a DVD; the illustration alluded to is by way of the pianist’s demonstrations at the keyboard, audio only. As if to underline the intellectual prowess of Aimard, he delivers the talk, quite eloquently, in three languages. This may seem like overkill, but Aimard intends this as a concept program, and his clever words underscore the marvelous work he does with his fingers. A brilliant and compelling release in every way.

Peter Burwasser, FANFARE
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Works on This Recording

Gaspard de la nuit by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Pierre-Laurent Aimard (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1908; France 
Date of Recording: 02/2005 
Venue:  Grossersaal, Konzerthaus, Vienna 
Length: 23 Minutes 10 Secs. 
Night Fantasies by Elliott Carter
Performer:  Pierre-Laurent Aimard (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1980; USA 
Date of Recording: 02/2005 
Venue:  Grossersaal, Konzerthaus, Vienna 
Length: 22 Minutes 13 Secs. 
Diversions (2) by Elliott Carter
Performer:  Pierre-Laurent Aimard (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1999; USA 
Date of Recording: 02/2005 
Venue:  Grossersaal, Konzerthaus, Vienna 
Length: 7 Minutes 37 Secs. 
90+ by Elliott Carter
Performer:  Pierre-Laurent Aimard (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1994; USA 
Date of Recording: 02/2005 
Venue:  Grossersaal, Konzerthaus, Vienna 
Length: 5 Minutes 29 Secs. 

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