Ravel Piano Works
The three mains features that characterize Maurice Ravel’s music – refinement, innovation and different sources of inspiration – are equally represented in the programme of Alexander Krichel’s album Miroirs. It includes three works in all, beginning with the famous Le tombeau de Couperin, evidence of the composer’s interest for ancient music and his need, shared by his contemporaries, to establish a strong musical identity for French music; it follows Miroirs, Ravel’s first serious attempt to write avant-garde music as a tribute to the members of the group Les Apaches, and in the end we find Gaspard de la nuit, a work inspired by Aloysius Bertrand’s Histoires vermoulues et poudreuses du Moyen Age and famous for its difficulty.
A highly demanding programme is usually an effective choice for a young artist, especially if it is carried out with the bravura of Alexander Krichel. He plays with great command of his instrument and skill and he adds to the most technical aspects of the performance some wonderful colours and originality that reveal his talent and the understanding of Ravel’s music even better.
Le tombeau de Couperin is the most varied of the three works and in it Krichel shows greater difference in inspiration in comparison to the other two. This does not mean that Miroirs and Gaspard de la nuit are less valuable than the first work, only that they are more uniform than this one, something that is nothing but coherency as each piece of Le tombeau de Couperin is dedicated to one of Ravel’s friends died during the War. Despite the title (“tombeau” literally means “tomb”) and the reference to Ravel’s personal events, Krichel give the Tombeau a bright colour that characterizes above all the first movement (Prélude), to which it seems more appropriate, but that recurs also in the next movements, included the nostalgic Fugue and the melancholic Menuet, where it is almost completely unexpected to find such luminosity. The fire that animates the Rigaudon is another shade of the same colour. This luminosity is the guiding thread of Le tombeau de Couperin and its unifying motive, the true reasons that invites the listener to discover it more and more, to the end.
The end of the Tombeau is not the end of the recording and the quieter, dreamy Miroirs begins at this point. The five pieces that compose the work are performed by Krichel in a relaxed way, to leave the images appear with precision, so that it is easy to imagine, for example, the Oiseaux tristes (“sad birds”) of the second movement or the rolling of the boat in the third (Une barque sur l’océan). From a general point of view, the Miroirs are a necessary step from the brightness of Le tombeau de Couperin to the gloomy programme of Gaspard de la nuit. In this last work, Krichel reveals a “darkness” that cannot be guessed in any of the previous works. The first of the three pieces of Gaspard, Ondine, is actually more delicate than morbid in its tunes, but when it comes to Le gibet (“the gibbet”, a self-explanatory title) the idea of the desert with only the hanged man in the distance is effectively conveyed. The dancing dwarf of Scarbo, at last, is rendered with a mixture of silvery and nervous sounds that makes it a really grotesque piece.
Miroirs is an enchanting album. To a captivating programme corresponds the talent of a young but already accomplished pianist and therefore this is a lucky and rare case in which both music and performer deserve to be listened to from the beginning to the end.