Melvyn Tan: Miroirs
For his latest solo CD, Melvyn Tan offers works by Ravel alongside pieces by other composers that somehow mirror the Ravel works. For example, the watery arpeggio sprays throughout Liszt’s ‘Les jeux d’eaux à la Villa d’Este’ dovetail into the similary seaworthy piano-writing of Ravel’s ‘Une barque sur l’océan’, while the heel-clicking repeated notes in Scarlatti’s Kk141 and Kk119 Sonatas directly relate to those in Ravel’s ‘Alborada del grazioso’. I’m not sure how convincingly Weber’s Invitation to the Dance jibes with Ravel’s Valses nobles et sentimentales; perhaps an assortment of Schubert dances would have served a more illuminating purpose.
As it happens, the programming concept proves more interesting than Tan’s actual pianism. His Weber is note-perfect yet hardly as exuberant and shapely as in the Michael Endres or Garrick Ohlsson recordings, let alone older benchmarks from Schnabel, Friedman and Fleisher. Much of Tan’s playing is overly loud in the Ravel Valses, hampered by twitchy tempo adjustments and inconsistent balances (the second waltz, for instance, is all over the place and never really settles), lacking the centred focus and transparency one hears from Arthur Rubinstein, Abbey Simon and, more recently, Steven Osborne.
Why bother recording Liszt’s ‘Feux follets’ if you can’t match the airy suppleness of Richter, Ashkenazy or Trifonov? Tan’s heavy-gaited and notey dispatch of Ravel’s ‘Noctuelles’ lacks lightness and shimmer, as do his prosaic renditions of the aforementioned Scarlatti sonatas. He gets through ‘Alborada’ on a wing and a prayer, leaving little sign of life or inspiration in his wake. However, Tan displays far more fluency and variety of tone in the final two selections: Liszt’s ‘Les cloches de Genève’ and Ravel’s ‘La vallée des cloches’, leaving the listener with 11 recommendable minutes over the course of a 78-minute recital.