Monique Haas

Ravel: Les 2 concertos pour piano; Le Tombeau de Couperin

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A bit faded? Perhaps. A little jaded? Possibly. But still strikingly vibrant and full of passion, strength, and even, at times, tenderness? Yes, absolutely. With her melting lyricism, beaming colors, blazing technique, and quiet intimacies, Monique Haas was the quintessence of modern French pianism après la guerre, and this 2004 disc program of her 1956 recordings of Ravel's two piano concertos plus his solo piano suite Le tombeau de Couperin is a wonderful introduction to her art. Her Concerto in G is brilliant, moody, and, at times, coquettish, while her Concerto for the Left Hand is staggeringly virtuosic, shockingly tough, and, at the climax, stunningly violent. But best of all may be her Tombeau. While she has the technique necessary to negotiate Ravel's subtly nuanced piano writing, she also has the sense of restrained emotionality that suffuses every movement of Ravel's funeral monument to his friends who died in the Great War. Also, unfortunately, the Tombeau may be better partially because Haas is unburdened of the merely proficient but unfeeling accompaniment of the Orchestre National de l'ORTF led by Paul Paray. DG's monaural sound is dated, certainly, but it is still clear enough to reveal the rapt beauty of Haas' playing.

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