Poems & Pictures
In Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit, there’s no question that pianist Leticia Gómez-Tagle can navigate the multi-textured thickets of notes in ‘Ondine’. But she does not navigate them with the resolute steadiness, shapeliness and control one hears from others, although her sonority and bottled-up passion open up considerably in the tumultuous climax. The obsessive repeated B flats in ‘Le gibet’ are supposed to project on a uniform level but they don’t here; and despite Gómez-Tagle’s brisk and fluid pacing, her essentially matter-of-fact reading never gets soft enough to convey the composer’s peculiar mixture of desolation and magic. While the pianist brings requisite suppleness and colour to ‘Scarbo’, her limited dynamic range and lack of rhythmic spark fall short of reference standards, be it Argerich, Pogorelich, Bavouzet, Michelangeli or, well, you get the idea.
Although Gómez-Tagle’s basic tempo for the Schubert/Liszt ‘Der Müller und der Bach’ verges on inertia, her sensitive phrasing and almost three-dimensional separation of melody and accompaniment impress, in contrast to her square, colourless ‘Auf dem Wasser zu singen’.
Following a plain-spoken opening ‘Promenade’, Gómez-Tagle pounces on the first picture in Mussorgsky’s gallery (‘Gnomus’) with just the right ferocity, rushed phrase-ends and all. By contrast, she resists the tendency in younger pianists to overload ‘The Old Castle’ with fussy rubatos and is one of the few pianists to observe the staccato markings in the chords six bars from the conclusion. ‘Tuileries’ could be lighter, more playful, while Gómez-Tagle’s ideally heavy yet vital tempo for ‘Bydπo’ slackens as the movement progesses. She eases into the ‘Unhatched Chicks’ rather than hitting the scherzino tempo spot-on, and plays Samuel Goldenberg’s declamatory music assertively and characterfully, in contrast to Schmuÿle’s relatively tepid repeated notes. And why that tentative accelerando leading into ‘The Marketplace at Limoges’? She also hesitates at phrase-ends in the meno mosso triplets in ‘The Great Gate at Kiev’, slightly diminishing their grandeur.
In sum, memorable moments notwithstanding, this release faces extremely stiff competition.