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Ravel: The Complete Piano Music / Walter Gieseking


Release Date: 03/12/2002 
Label:  Emi Classics Références Catalog #: 74793   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Walter Gieseking
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Mono 
Length: 1 Hours 58 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

For a pianist so associated with the French repertoire it’s somewhat perplexing to find that these Ravel recordings have been out of the domestic catalogue for so long. His Debussy set, currently on EMI CHS 5 658552, has always occupied a central place in the discography – as Bryce Morrison says in his notes Gieseking is to Debussy as Schnabel is to Beethoven or Rubinstein to Chopin - whereas his sovereignty in Ravel seems to have been very slightly eroded over the years. Which again, if true, is a matter for bewilderment. Whilst other pianists may sometimes bring greater clarity of articulation to Ravel or a greater elegance very few can command the myriad exquisite nuances that constantly illuminate the music in the way Gieseking Read more invariably does.

In the Menuet antique, one of Ravel’s first published piano works, we are introduced to his unique brand of piquant antiquarianism, a trait he was never to lose, visiting the past and vesting it in new garb. And in the Pavane pour une infante defunte we can hear Gieseking’s extraordinary pedalling subtleties and characteristic pearl drop tone; at 3.25 he creates a heavily pedalled wash that magically ushers in the right hand line. The gradations of tone throughout the range are fabulously exact and never calculated. Jeux d’eau is rapidly played. The River God is certainly laughing at the water here – and Gieseking’s fleetness is sometimes to the detriment of clarity of articulation even though it is unavoidably true to say that his occasional technical shortcomings are seemingly subsumed into the greater whole.

It is in fact remarkable that his two years with Karl Leimer were the extent of his official studies; his famous comment that "talent goes in inverse ratio to the necessity for practice" might otherwise be seen as an ignoble boast were it not for his laconic truthfulness and the fact that his sensibility was never obviously virtuosic but one of the heightened poetic. In the archaisms of the Sonatine (1903/5) Gieseking’s second movement is stately – with bass notes staccato and ineffably wry – and at 2.59 he opens out his pedalling, terracing the final chords’ dynamics, animated by his remarkable ear for apposite sonorities. The nonchalant flourish at the end of the Anime movement is another feature of his craft and perfectly judged. Miroirs is not immaculately played but it is so evocative and supremely imaginative that the imperfections are of little significance.

If there is some over-pedalling in Une barque sur l’ocean (and the tempo is really too fast for the succeeding thematic relationship to work) and if the two glissandos in La vallee des cloches are excitingly but not always audibly played, what is that against so much that is supreme? In Noctuelles those passages frequently fudged by other pianists are triumphantly clear. In Oiseaux tristes the middle voices are brought out in perfect gradation – tonally this is playing of the greatest imagination and technical resource. Gieseking’s rhythm in Une barque propels the chopping rhythm onward with torrents of ascending and descending runs under great control. Right hand flourishes are coolly tossed off in Alborada del gracioso and even more magnificent are his repeated notes here – quiet, fast, even and tremendously difficult to accomplish. The tonal weight at 4.02 in La Vallee des cloches is exquisite – this is truly a transfiguration.

In Gaspard de la nuit Gieseking plays up the contrasts of volume and tempo – listen for example at 5.30 – and within a seemingly constricted compass he conjures up magical colouristic inflections. The fast passagework (maybe too fast for optimum comfort) with lots of pedal is a galvanizing and macabre triumph. The little Haydn piece dates from 1909, the centenary of his death. Ravel’s admixture of tribute and harmonic piquancy is winningly done. The Schubertian tribute – the Valses nobles et sentimentales – caused bafflement on first hearing but Gieseking has their full measure. He brings insouciant whimsy to the Assez anime movement (No 4) and is never too fast for coherent articulation in the rapid movement Vif (No 6). His rhythm is always alive and animated, his tone wonderfully complex. The lightly parodic "In the style of…" are witty little pastiches of Borodin and Chabrier – and, at under two minutes each, succinct.

Le Tombeau de Couperin, one of the cornerstones of the French pianistic repertoire, is made for Gieseking. His rapid wit is accentuated in the Prelude with the use of unusually light pedalling. The Fugue is eventfully played – softened tone, even production, though perhaps with not quite the level of dynamic variety one would wish for. In Forlane, a five-minute Allegretto, his clarity never descends into artificiality or disengagement – on the contrary, this is pianism of immense contrast and life. It is not the only way to play Ravel – what could be – and contrasts with the perhaps more centrally French playing of, say, Robert Casadesus or Marcelle Meyer, both of whose impulses were rather more aloof than Gieseking’s. But there can be no greater compliment than to say of a performance that during its span one is convinced that the music could go no other way. And that is Gieseking’s Ravel.

-- Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Menuet antique by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Walter Gieseking (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1895; France 
Date of Recording: 12/1954 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studios, London 
Length: 5 Minutes 43 Secs. 
2.
Pavane pour une infante défunte by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Walter Gieseking (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1899; France 
Date of Recording: 12/1954 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studios, London 
Length: 5 Minutes 55 Secs. 
3.
Jeux d'eau by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Walter Gieseking (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1901; France 
Date of Recording: 12/1954 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studios, London 
Length: 4 Minutes 33 Secs. 
4.
Sonatine for Piano by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Walter Gieseking (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1903-1905; France 
Date of Recording: 12/1954 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studios, London 
Length: 11 Minutes 5 Secs. 
5.
Miroirs by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Walter Gieseking (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1904-1905; France 
Date of Recording: 12/1954 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studios, London 
Length: 24 Minutes 2 Secs. 
6.
Gaspard de la nuit by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Walter Gieseking (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1908; France 
Date of Recording: 12/1954 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studios, London 
Length: 20 Minutes 47 Secs. 
7.
Menuet sur le nom d'Haydn by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Walter Gieseking (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1909; France 
Date of Recording: 12/1954 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studios, London 
Length: 1 Minutes 57 Secs. 
8.
Valses nobles et sentimentales by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Walter Gieseking (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911; France 
Date of Recording: 12/1954 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studios, London 
Length: 12 Minutes 34 Secs. 
9.
Prélude for Piano in A minor by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Walter Gieseking (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1913; France 
Date of Recording: 12/1954 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studios, London 
Length: 1 Minutes 16 Secs. 
10.
A la manière de Borodine by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Walter Gieseking (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1913; France 
Date of Recording: 12/1954 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studios, London 
Length: 1 Minutes 28 Secs. 
11.
A la manière de Chabrier by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Walter Gieseking (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1913; France 
Date of Recording: 12/1954 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studios, London 
Length: 1 Minutes 58 Secs. 
12.
Le tombeau de Couperin by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Walter Gieseking (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1914-1917; orch. 191; France 
Date of Recording: 12/1954 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studios, London 
Length: 25 Minutes 34 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Menuet antique (2001 Digital Remaster)
Pavane pour une infante défunte (Assez doux mais d'une sonorité large) (2001 Digital Remaster)
Jeux d'eau (Très doux) (2001 Digital Remaster)
Sonatine (2001 Digital Remaster): Modéré
Sonatine (2001 Digital Remaster): Mouvement de menuet
Sonatine (2001 Digital Remaster): Animé
Miroirs (2001 Digital Remaster): Noctuelles (Très léger)
Miroirs (2001 Digital Remaster): Oiseaux triste (Très lent)
Miroirs (2001 Digital Remaster): Une barque sur l'océan (D'un rythme souple)
Miroirs (2001 Digital Remaster): Alborada del gracioso (Assez vif)
Miroirs (2001 Digital Remaster): La vallée des cloches (Très lent)
Gaspard de la nuit (2001 Digital Remaster): 1. Ondine (Lent)
Gaspard de la nuit (2001 Digital Remaster): 2. Le Gibet (Très lent)
Gaspard de la nuit (2001 Digital Remaster): 3. Scarbo (Modéré - Vif)
Menuet sur le nom de Haydn (Mouvement de menuet) (2001 Digital Remaster)
Valses nobles et sentimentales (2001 Digital Remaster): Moderé - très franc
Valses nobles et sentimentales (2001 Digital Remaster): Assez lent (avec une expression intense)
Valses nobles et sentimentales (2001 Digital Remaster): Moderé
Valses nobles et sentimentales (2001 Digital Remaster): Assez animé
Valses nobles et sentimentales (2001 Digital Remaster): Presque lent (dans un sentiment intime)
Valses nobles et sentimentales (2001 Digital Remaster): Vif
Valses nobles et sentimentales (2001 Digital Remaster): Moins vif
Valses nobles et sentimentales (2001 Digital Remaster): Epilogue - Lent
Prélude (Assez lent et très expressif d'un rythme libre) (2001 Digital Remaster)
A la manière de Borodine (Valse-Allegro giusto) (2001 Digital Remaster)
A la manière de Chabrier (Paraphrase sur un air de Gounod, 'Faust', Act II) (Allegretto) (2001 Digital Remaster)
Le Tombeau de Couperin: I: Prélude (Vif)
Le Tombeau de Couperin: II: Fugue (Allegro moderato)
Le Tombeau de Couperin: III: Forlane (Allegretto)
Le Tombeau de Couperin: IV: Rigaudon (Assez vif)
Le Tombeau de Couperin: V: Menuet (Allegro moderato)
Le Tombeau de Couperin: VI: Toccata (Vif)

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