Disc reaches a new Ravel benchmark

Pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet and conductor Yan Pascal Tortelier's chemistry creates a magical performance of Ravel, Debussy and Massenet favourites

Composer: Ravel, Debussy, Massenet
Repertoire: Works for Piano and/or Piano and Orchestra 
Artists: Jean-Efflam Bavouzet (pf), BBC Symphony Orchestra/Yan Pascal Tortelier
Rating: 5/5 
Genre: Orchestral 
Label: Chandos CHSA 5084

The Music Debussy’s early Fantaisie (1889), a piano concerto in all but name, receives a rare outing on disc, followed by Ravel’s two popular concertos from some forty years later. The disc ends, surprisingly, with six rare short piano solos by Massenet. 

The Performance Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, whose recordings of all Debussy’s music for piano have garnered a shelf-full of awards, turns in a performance of the Fantaisie that illuminates this uneven yet magical work like no other. As to the Ravel concertos, I have no hesitation in saying these are the greatest performances I have ever heard. The G major is as sharp as a razor, achingly lyrical when required and, above all, fun (unlike the recent poker-faced Aimard/Boulez recording). The ‘Left Hand’ concerto, helped by Tortelier’s incisive conducting, is simply awe-inspiring. 

Verdict It’s exceptional to have a soloist and conductor so in tune with each other in both Ravel concertos. This is a great partnership, a stunning disc and an early contender for those end-of-year awards.