Notes and Editorial Reviews
Composed between 1929 and 1931, Ravel’s two piano concertos reflect his enthusiasm for jazz, though one that was thoroughly absorbed into his own idiom. The Concerto in G major, originally conceived as a Basque rhapsody, is lightly scored but sports a vivacious percussion section, galvanizing motor rhythms and a slow movement of astonishing beauty. The Concerto for the Left Hand, commissioned by Paul Wittgenstein who had lost his right arm in the First World War, is a single movement tour de force, as is Tzigane, a gypsy violin showpiece of dazzling virtuosity.
This release does both of Ravel's Piano Concertos proud. François Dumont plays the two works with the sort of direct, unfussy virtuosity and, well, class that we usually call “French,” except that his interpretive decisions qualify as just plain, good musicianship. The G major Concerto needs a first movement that doesn’t meander as soon as the tempo relaxes, and a slow movement notable for the limpid simplicity of its lyricism. That’s just what Dumont and Slatkin (who knows these works well and recorded them previously with Alicia de Larrocha, no less) offer.
In the Concerto for the Left Hand, Dumont invests his considerable virtuosity in maintaining a seamless legato and keeping the textures flowing evenly along the entire length of the keyboard. The jazzy central episode really swings, and the final cadenza builds beautifully to the closing pages. It’s definitely one of the better versions released in recent years. Once again Slatkin proves an able partner, with the Lyon orchestra consistently on its toes and the piano balanced realistically against the ensemble.
– ClassicsToday.com (David Hurwitz)