La Valse – Reviews
Debussy / Bizet / Ravel
Paul Driver, Sunday Times, August 2001:
‘These two young players made their Proms debut last week in Stravinsky’s Concerto for Two Pianos, and here they offer an enjoyable, well-arranged sequence of French music for four-hand piano. Ravel’s fascinating transcription of Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune articulates the evanescent orchestral substance of the original with analytical precision while retaining a magical limpidity and flow. The profundity of this opening item is matched by and contrasted with that of the final one, Ravel’s seductively catastrophic La Valse (in Lucien Garban’s transcription). In between comes the wistfully remembered innocence of Bizet’s Jeux d’enfants – beginning in a reverie, it ends in a (sparklingly played) gallop – and Ravel’s immaculate Ma mère l’Oye suite.’
Christopher Wood, BBC Music Magazine, October 2001:
‘The Kontarskys, the Labèques, the Ogdons — often successful piano duos seem to benefit from being related, or at least married to one another. Philip Moore and Simon Crawford-Phillips are to the best of my knowledge neither of these things, but they have that crucial quality of appearing to think with one brain, moving their fingers in response to a single artistic impulse. The effect is deceptive rather like the Aztecs who regarded a Spaniard on a horse as being a single entity, it seems that we are listening to just one artist. This composite pianist plays Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune with immense grace and sensitivity to the weight of silence. In Bizet’s Jeux d’enfants he is innocent and full of enchantment, and plays with such charm as to persuade that this is the most delightful piece ever written for the medium. Similarly In Ravel’s Ma mère l’oye, childlike simplicity and technical sophistication go hand in hand. Nothing trips him up, not even the exhausting and slightly pointless gymnastics of Ravel’s La Valse. A remarkable young pianist: look out for him.’
Terry Barfoot, Classical Music Web:
‘The piano duet of Philip Moore and Simon Crawford-Phillips is an eminently talented combination, working effectively together in the service of the music they perform. And this thoughtfully compiled programme of French music gives them ample opportunity to display their talents.
Two of the four items are by Ravel, and it is his arrangement of Debussy’s celebrated Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune which opens the recital. This languid music is not at first sight suited to a piano arrangement, but Ravel knew his craft and loved the work, to the extent that he described it as ‘the only music I know which is absolutely perfect’. To perform this version of the score is a great challenge, to which these artists respond with taste and sensitivity, aided by an atmospheric recording which also allows details to be heard with the utmost clarity.
The charming sequence of miniatures which make up Bizet’s Jeux d’enfants are also tellingly done, and the music gains considerably from the attention to details of dynamic nuance which add an important extra dimension. Ravel’s Mother Goose also exists as a ballet and an orchestral suite, and each version is equally valid, which is a tribute to the composer’s imagination and technical command. Balances are expertly projected, for which all praise too to the recording engineers, and the little touches of nuance and phrasing are a constant delight.
The final item, Ravel’s La valse, is heard in a duet arrangement by Lucien Garban. This is altogether sterner, stronger stuff, and the pianists respond with gusto to the challenge of the quasi-orchestral thrust which is often present.’
Suonare News, Italy, September 2002:
‘The programme for this disc is delightful: an assembly of elegance and French perfume which reaches far beyond the mere national origin of its composers. Our intelligent pianists begin with a chamber-transcription of the most celebrated orchestral piece of “new” music written in Europe at the end of the nineteenth century and conclude with the duet version (by Lucien Garban) of Ravel’s “La Valse”, fully displaying their understanding of the drama behind these works. The two cycles about childhood placed in the centre come from that sphere of poetry in which no extra emphasis is necessary to attain profundity. Their interpretation is sophisticated in its search for colourings and full of unexpected richness in character, be it ironic or naïf. Bizet’s “Jeux d’enfants” reveal a real sense of humour, light and attractive, and this original keyboard version contains extraordinary gems, beautifully performed by Moore and Crawford-Phillips. Whatever may be awkward or artless in Bizet’s writing becomes pure subtlety of touch and pedalling in the magical sound-world of the celebrated tales of “Mother Goose”. The listener becomes bewitched by this cycle and I found myself wondering, which is the more telling – the atmospheric sonorities of his orchestral arrangement or the magical colours already present in this piano version? Ravel’s writing is mannered: that is how he creates the incredibly innocent expression in these pieces. This is perfectly understood by the performers who, sensitive and mannered in their definition of dynamics and the maintenance of a subdued tone, are full of hidden poetic humour. In this way they lead us to the heart of Ravel’s “Enchanted Garden” with touching simplicity.’