DEBUSSY; MASSENET; RAVEL Piano Works – Bavouzet
Debussy’s Fantaisie is such a gorgeous work that its infrequent appearances on the concert platform (or on disc, for that matter) are a matter of surprise. Completed in 1890, it is not mature Debussy, but there are plenty of tantalising foretastes of things to come, and its voluptuous rhapsodising makes the two Ravel concertos sound positively corseted by comparison. The combination of all three works on a single CD creates a satisfying programme, especially when played with such finesse and limpid colouring as by Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, with Yan Pascal Tortelier and the BBC SO matching him in taste and eloquence. Somehow – and this is really the only reservation – the simplicity of the central slow movement of Ravel’s G major Concerto on occasion sags into something approaching sleepiness, but elsewhere the interpretations catch the ear with their blend of subtle phrasing, polish and unanimous zest. The performance of the Debussy Fantaisie is especially good and deserves to garner wider audiences for a piece on which, for some reason, the composer seems to have placed an embargo, so that it was not given its premiere until 1919, the year after his death. Maybe, on reflection, he found it too redolent of a conventional piano concerto or, as he told Edgard Varèse, a “slightly ridiculous battle” between piano and orchestra, but this performance casts such self-criticism aside. A group of charming solo piano miniatures by Massenet complements and at times connects with the styles of Debussy and Ravel, and Bavouzet plays them beautifully.