Clément Lefebvre’s Distinctive Ravel

Review by: Jed Distler


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

In an era flush with excellent Ravel recordings, it says a lot that Clément Lefebvre brings a fresh and personal voice to thrice familiar repertoire. Moreover, he does so without indulging in gimmicks or eccentricities. He scrupulously articulates the Sonatine’s outer movements, allowing the phrases room to speak and breathe. The central Menuet’s subtle rubato and sensitive voice leading evoke a string quartet more than a solitary pianist. Similar words apply to the Menuet antique, and to what arguably is the most gorgeously voiced Menuet sur le nom de Haydn since Vlado Perlemuter’s heyday.

I love Lefebvre’s hair-trigger staccato chords in Valses nobles et sentimentales’ opening, along with his cannily stretched out ritardandos elsewhere. Having heard one too many overwrought and micromanaged Pavane performances, Lefebvre’s unfussy, straightforward pianism is a welcome antidote.

Perhaps Le Tombeau de Couperin’s Prelude can be somewhat suppler, yet hardly clearer. Also note Lefebvre’s meticulous dynamic gradations in the Fugue, and his varied characterizations from section to section in the Forlane. Lefebvre’s sharply contrasted Rigadoun sounds faster than it actually is, while the Menuet’s well-turned ornaments amount to a diction lesson from a seasoned actor. Although I prefer Bertrand Chamayou’s brisker, more scintillating Toccata finale, Lefebvre’s pinpointed repeated notes are models of sophisticated tonal application. In sum, such cultured and superbly engineered interpretations auger well for what I hope will be a complete Ravel cycle from this gifted pianist.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Bavouzet (MDG); Simon (Vox); Chamayou (Erato)

    Sonatine; Menuet sur le nom de Haydn; Valses nobles et sentimentales; Menuet antique; Pavane pour une infante défunte; Le Tombeau de Couperin
  • Clément Lefebvre (piano)

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