Claude Bessmann

Ravel: Tombeau de Couperin; Sonatine; Pavane pour une infante défunte

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Pianist Claude Bessmann presents a program of Ravel's solo piano works on this recording. For those who know these pieces well, her performances are a little unusual. She was a student of Vlado Perlemuter, who himself was a student of Ravel, which makes her artistic choices curiouser. Her touch is perfect for the music, light and soft, very legato, making the music very cushiony, and it is consistent throughout the program, which is part of what makes her interpretations unique. Regardless of whether it's the "Rigaudon" of Le tombeau de Couperin or the Pavane pour une infante défunte, there's a dreamy sense to it. In Bessmann's sparse notes, she talks about the sensuousness of Ravel's harmonies and rhythms, and her performance bears out her thoughts. There is a languidness in her approach, so it seems as if she is almost savoring Ravel's music. That works for the music, much of the time, especially for movements and pieces such as the Pavane, but not always. In the seventh Valses nobles et sentimentales and in the Tombeau's Toccata, there's energy in her playing, but it's less angular and less ecstatic than most other interpretations. Then there are moments such as in the Prelude and the "Forlane" where her phrasing and rhythms just seem odd. This isn't the recording to choose for newcomers to Ravel, but it may interest those who take note of teacher-to-student legacies.

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