This flat-out fabulous record contains an ingenious selection of repertoire: Nielsen and Ravel, the Danish modernist and the French impressionist, together for the first time. To open the disc, there's Nielsen's monumental Chaconne, one the greatest works in the form since Bach took it on. After it fades off into the ether, there's the balm of Ravel's Pavane pour une Infante défunte followed by the bite of Nielsen's Three Piano Pieces and the dread of Ravel's Le gibet. Then, after the respite of Nielsen's quirky Humoreske-Bagatelles comes the same composer's mighty "Lucifer" Suite, with its extremely maniacal closing movement. Finally, as a magical epilogue, comes Ravel's simple but sublime Ma mère l'oye. Each piece moves inevitably and ineluctably to the next, and the aesthetic whole is much more than the sum of its brilliant parts.
On top of that, there's the magnificent virtuosity of the performances by American pianist Robert Hamilton. Hamilton has the audacity to take on some of the hardest pieces in the solo piano repertoire, hardest not only because of their frequent technical difficulty but also because of their occasional extreme simplicity, and play them with a combination of effortless control and hair-raising bravura that makes his performance absolutely irresistible. Hamilton captures the restrained grief of the Pavane, the radiant violence of the "Lucifer" and the luminous consolation of "Le jardin féerique," and yet encompasses them all in his own strong-willed sensibilities. To cap it off, the sound, recorded in the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Grady Gammage Auditorium at the University of Arizona in Tempe engineered by Jack Miller and Clarke Rigsby and produced by Hamilton himself, is terrific.