Worthy Ravel Concertos from Slatkin and Dumont

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

It’s amazing how many bad recordings there are of Ravel’s piano concertos, so I’m pleased to report that this release does them both 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.

In Tzigane, violinist Jennifer Gilbert plays perfectly well, though this may be Ravel’s least interesting work in any form. I’d like to hear her in more important repertoire. She’s got chops, and it’s a nice bonus if you care. Slatkin’s Ravel with this orchestra has been patchy, but this is certainly a release of which everyone concerned should be proud.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Samson François/Cluytens (EMI/Warner)

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