Fascinating, then, to compare her concert with the two Ravel programmes given by Paul Crossley. A slight stiffness in the opening Pavane of his first recital (14 Aug) - perhaps attributable to having to begin at the unearthly hour of 11am? - soon gave way to a powerful, nervous energy in the astonishing "Barque sur l'ocean" and "Alborada del Gracioso" from Miroirs, balanced by a darker, melancholic effect in "Oiseaux tristes" and a brilliantly managed fade to silence in "La Vallee des cloches". The cascades of notes in Jeux d'eau still left Crossley with energy for the more precise, chaste gestures of the later neo-classical works, culminating in Le Tombeau de Couperin. Even here, though, the dark, edgy undertones of Ravel's imagination, and the agonised touches which this pianist is expert in bringing out, were evident.
The second Crossley recital, last Tuesday, gave further evidence of this side of Ravel, especially in the veiled effects and wild outbursts of La Valse, and the dissonant, abrupt harmonies of Valses nobles et sentimentales. If De Larrocha's approach is one of clarity and restrained passion, Crossley's is more "transcendental" - a sort of ploughing through a metaphysical murk of technical virtuosity towards some desirable but never completely attainable goal. Which is perhaps what Ravel was ultimately all about. This latter quality was most powerful in the almost demonic, haunted world of the concluding Gaspard de la nuit. It was something of a shock, then, when the pianist had to announce an end to proceedings before the last section, "Scarbo", pleading ill-health. The ovation he received was appropriate to what would have been a magnificent performance in normal circumstances, and was downright extraordinary in these.
LAURENCE HUGHESReuse content