For his 2012 release on Avie, pianist Inon Barnatan explores the concept of light and darkness in music by performing fantastic works of Maurice Ravel, Thomas Adès, Claude Debussy, and Benjamin Britten. Without pointing out such obvious associations as the keyboard's high and low registers, or resorting to clichés of cheerful or gloomy pieces, Barnatan looks more deeply into the thinking behind Ravel's Gaspard de la nuit and La valse, Adès' Darknesse Visible, Debussy's Suite bergamasque, and Ronald Stevenson's adaptation of Britten's music for the Fantasy on Peter Grimes, all pieces that delve into the shadowy realms of expression. In terms of technique, Barnatan is a skilled musician with ample chops, so there's no question that the virtuosic aspects of these works appealed to him. But musical and literary sources that inspired these pieces underlie this program, including the haunting images conjured by the Gaspard poems of Aloysius Bertrand; the melancholy of John Dowland's song, In darknesse let me dwell; the light and shade of Paul Verlaine's poem, Claire de lune; George Crabbe's 1810 book of poems, The Borough, which gave rise to Peter Grimes; Edgar Allan Poe's The Masque of the Red Death, upon which La valse is possibly based. These are areas the listener may research independently, and Barnatan is a helpful guide, for his insightful performances and informative liner notes will intrigue many listeners.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|Gaspard de la nuit|