Ravel: Complete Piano Music – review

Steven Osborne
(Hyperion, two CDs)

Even including all the one-off miniatures that Ravel composed, especially early in his career, all his piano music fits comfortably on to a pair of CDs, and Steven Osborne's survey of it is an unqualified delight. He even finds room for the keyboard transcription of La Valse, so that one of his discs is framed neatly by the diablerie of Gaspard de la Nuit at the start and La Valse's manic descent into hell at the end. But though he explores both works with his usual questing intelligence, providing a telling reminder that the virtuoso aspects of Ravel's piano writing owe as much to Liszt as to any of his French predecessors, such dark extremes are not Osborne's natural environment. His playing is much more elegantly sophisticated and subtly coloured than that, and it is equally well suited to the delicate classicism of the Sonatine, the scene painting of Miroirs and the nostalgia for the 18th century in Le Tombeau de Couperin as it is to the more extrovert virtuosity of the Valses Nobles et Sentimentales.


Andrew Clements

The GuardianTramp

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