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Ravel: Piano Concertos / Samson Francois


Release Date: 10/12/2010 
Label:  Emi Classics   Catalog #: 31803   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Samson François
Conductor:  André Cluytens
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris Conservatoire Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length:  1 Hours  1 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

The collaboration of Cluytens and François in Ravel’s two piano concertos has never been surpassed, and it’s easy to illustrate why. As a soloist, François could be either brilliant or erratic (or brilliantly erratic), but Cluytens ensures that he’s purely brilliant in these two works. The G Major Concerto, especially, unforgettably combines classical poise with jazzy swagger. Consider the first sound sample below. It consists of the end of the first subject and the soloist’s entrance with the second principal idea. There are two basic tempo areas in the movement: Allegramente, and “meno vivo.” The question is, for this secondary section, how much “meno?” Most performance slam on the brakes for the piano’s solo entrance, and Read more then speed up at each subsequent orchestral “jazz” refrain, as in sound sample No. 2, the recent Chailly/Bollani recording on Decca. This is exactly what Ravel did not write.

Cluytens and François demonstrate how it should be done. The decrease in basic tempo is minimal, a slight relaxation, and yet François allows himself plenty of freedom within the basic pulse for the contrast to register. The result ensures that the movement has unusual coherence as well as unusual brilliance. And that’s really all there is to it, because the remainder of the performance, as well as that of the Left Hand Concerto, demonstrates exactly the same virtues. Toss in the pungently idiomatic playing of the Paris Conservatory Concert Society Orchestra and you get the reference by which all others must be judged.

This particular release also includes two solo piano works; the EMI “Great Recordings of the Century” edition dropped the Valses, for some strange reason. It’s a pity because they are very fine. François’ stereo Gaspard, as Jed Distler has pointed out in his review of the complete Ravel set, isn’t quite the scorcher in Scarbo that his early 78rpm version was, but it’s still pretty impressive, and however you acquire the concertos getting anything else is a bonus. The sonics are a tad dated, but were always good–excellently balanced and they do the performances proud. There are few cases where a thirty second sound clip really can illustrate what makes a particular performance so special, but this is one of them.

-- ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1.
Concerto for Piano in G major by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Samson François (Piano)
Conductor:  André Cluytens
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris Conservatoire Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1929-1931; France 
Date of Recording: 1959 
2.
Concerto for Piano left hand in D major by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Samson François (Piano)
Conductor:  André Cluytens
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris Conservatoire Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1929-1930; France 
Date of Recording: 1967 
3.
Gaspard de la nuit by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Samson François (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1908; France 
Date of Recording: 1967 
4.
Valses nobles et sentimentales by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Samson François (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911; France 

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