dinsdag 20 december 2011
Ravel: Piano Concerto in G
And that didn't change with this little comparative audition of the three versions - two on vinyl and one on CD - I have in my collection. I started with a 1968 recording featuring Werner Haas as a soloist, accompanied by the Orchestre Nationale de l'Opéra de Monte Carlo under Alceo Galliera (an Italian conductor unbeknownst to me who was long associated with La Scala; Abbado allegedly was one of his students). I thought the first movement started a bit scrappily but quickly the performance takes flight. The dreamily, 'mystical' part in development section was very well done and provided a contemplative center of gravity in this otherwise bustling movement. The slow movement was fine: soberly aristocratic and eschewing emotional mannerisms. A satisfying finale brought the work to an end. I thought this was an excellent recording.
Then the 1958 recording by Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli with the Philharmonia Orchestra under Ettore Gracis (a Fenice stalwart who was almost a perfect contemporary of Galliera). For many this is the version to have. Sadly my vinyl copy was a little worn out so that it didn't quite do justice to the impeccable artistry on display. The big difference with the Haas recording, it seems to me, is the slow movement where ABM conjures up the most gossamer textures, superbly accompanied by the Philharmonia. However, I found the Haas to be more earthy and interesting in the outer movements.
I ended with an old favourite of mine, featuring the mature Alicia de Larrocha supported by the London Philharmonic with Lawrence Foster at the helm. It's a Decca recording for which she received a Grammy in 1975. I pasted the cover of the London LP edition (which I don't have) in this blog message because I like the black-and-white picture so much. Now I must say that compared to the previous two versions I found this recording a little wanting. It doesn't quite muster the distinguished manners of Haas' rendition or the transcendent qualities of Benedetti Michelangeli's quest for the last ounce of nuance. It's a more female and suave and ultimately also more anecdotal reading. In the slow movement Foster risks to spill over into the larmoyant. Technically it's a fabulous recording that puts Ravel's mastery of the orchestra very well on display.