Magazine article Gramophone

Giacometti Pits Erard Ravel against Steinway Ravel

Magazine article Gramophone

Giacometti Pits Erard Ravel against Steinway Ravel

Article excerpt

Ravel

'Erard versus Steinway Compared' Sonatine. Gaspard de la nuit. Menuet antique. Le tombeau de Couperin (all played on both pianos) Paolo Giacometti pfs Channel Classics (F) (2) (SACD) CCSSA31612 (134' * DDD/DSD)

Paolo Giacometti asks 'authentic or modern?' in his introductory notes. The pianist has made a career of playing the same repertoire on old and new instruments, finding 'a stimulating cross-fertilisation of expressive and interpretative possibilities' by doing so. Here he offers the intriguing prospect of a Ravel recital played on a 90-key 1888 'Extra Grand de Concert' Erard (restored in 2011) and, on a second disc, the identical programme played on a Steinway (no details of this are given). Ravel frequently gave recitals on a Steinway, he tells us, 'while at home he used an Erard when composing'. The different sound worlds are produced by one instrument having parallel stringing and a largely wooden frame, the other having cross stringing and a steel frame.

Whether this concept works (commercially or musically) is a moot point. My guess is that the kind of people most likely to want to hear Gaspard on an Erard are the same kind of people who will already have at least one of its benchmark recordings (by Pogorelich, Michelangeli or Argerich) played on a modern grand piano, or one by such young pretenders as Sergio Tiempo or Steven Osborne. And Giacometti, refined pianist and colourist though he is, does not displace these or reveal anything so new as to make you wonder what you've been missing all this time. Gaspard on an Erard is interesting but simply sounds and works better on a Steinway (other marques also available), most especially the outer movements where sudden changes of mood and dynamic, essential to conveying the music's character, can be far more keenly defined. …

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