As I write these lines it is peak summer outside, a sunny morning surely made for Ravel’s piano music. So I feel all is well as I listen to the two-CD set at hand, Ravel Compared (Navona NV6401) as played with real artistic vibrancy by Elaine Greenfield. I might argue that Ravel was at the very top of 20th century composers for the piano. It is not like I would be saying something not already generally felt out there. And as times goes on I still feel that way, not surprisingly.
What is especially nice about this compilation is that each of the two CDs features the same repertoire, only Ms. Greenfield plays each set on a different period instrument. CD 1 features an 1893 Erard from Paris; CD 2 features an 1917 Ivers & Pond from Boston. MS. Greenfield responds to each piano as she feels it. The Erard has a great kind of mirrored liquidity, the Ivers & Pond has a sunshiny woodiness equally charming. As you listen to each you feel you are closer to the music the way Ravel himself may well have heard it. But at the same time you hear Elaine’s unwavering sympathy to the works and her open nd poetic readings, more about the warmth and lucidity of the music than some technical self-aggrandizement.
So the works chosen sound great in slightly varying ways each outing.”Pavane Pour Une Infante Defunte” reminds us how wonderful his melodic-harmonic gifts were. Then we get to appreciate Ms, Greenfield’s well varying readings of the “Sonatine,” a couple of movements from “Miroirs,” his “Valses Nobles et Sentimentales,” “Gaspard de la Nuit,” and :”Le Tombeau de Couperin.”
Anyone who has communed in the Ravel pianistic approach will have plenty to appreciate in Elaine Greenfield’s supreme artistry. A newcomer to the music would benefit from hearing both piano-based versions and their heightened lyrical dynamics. Strongly recommended!