Ravel Complete Solo Piano Music – Volume 1 – MusicWeb International review

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) 
Complete Solo Piano Music – Volume 1
Sérénade grotesque (1892-3)
Menuet antique (1895)
La Parade (1896)
Pavane pour une infante défunte (1899)
Jeux d’eau (1901)
Menuet in C sharp minor (1903)
Miroirs (1904-5)
Fugue in F major (1901)
Oleg Marshev (piano)
rec. 2021, Cultural Institute, Milan

The Russian pianist Oleg Marshev has been dedicated to recording for the Danacord label over the last twenty years, embracing Balakirev, Brahms, Chopin, Liszt, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Schubert, Pabst, Prokofiev, Rachmaninov, Rubinstein, Richard Strauss, Emil Sauer, Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky. He has also recorded a four-CD collection of Danish piano concertos and all the concertos by Prokofiev, Rachmaninov, Shostakovich, and Tchaikovsky. Since his 1991 New York debut at the Alice Tully Hall in New York, he has enjoyed a busy career giving concerts world-wide. Currently, he is a professor in piano at the Bruckner University in Linz and has presented masterclasses in Europe, America and Asia.

This is the first occasion that I have heard him, and from the first bars of his playing it is clear that he is an outstanding virtuoso of the highest order. Notably, Marshev studied at the Moscow Conservatoire with Mikhail Voskresensky (b.1935), whose lineage goes back through Lev Oborin, Konstantin Igumnov and Alexander Ziloti to Franz Liszt. On one occasion, I was fortunate to meet Professor Voskresensky, and was amazed that as he entered the room everyone stood up in his honour. Voskresensky has taught a long line of distinguished pianists including Igolinsky, Ghindin, and Favorin.

I can only wonder why his pupil Oleg Marshev is not as well-known as some of the celebrated pianists who regularly appear in our concert halls. I suspect that it is not related to his artistry and technique, but rather to the manner in which the music business is organised. Marshev possesses a refined taste and Romanticism in the application of pianistic sonorities, a complete command of conflicting musical colours and a legato technique permitting him to create a ‘singing’ voice at the piano.

Here on this first release of the projected issue of all of Ravel’s piano music, Marshev connects less well-known pieces with recognised masterpieces from the French composer’s works. The Sérénade grotesque is from his student years, and was unpublished until 1975, (premiered by Ricardo Viñes in 1901). It is Ravel’s first surviving piece and not without echoes of Chabrier, yet is already distinct in Ravel’s Spanish inflection. The second piece on this disc is more redolent of Chabrier’s influence, yet with hints of 18th century dances in the opening chords, and Marshev reveals all the elaborate dynamics in the score.

La Parade is a quite remarkable piece with all the pointed effects of Erik Satie, few of which bear any suggestion of Ravels’ future writing. – following Scene 1. There follows a suite of dances including a waltz and a mazurka exquisitely played by Marshev, bringing out all the quirky facets of the score.

In the more familiar Pavane pour une infante défunte, Marshev brings out all the melancholia and veiled harmonies characteristic of Ravel’s teacher Fauré, while voicing late Romanticism. In the more Ravelian Jeux d’eau, we hear the delicate cascades of water and rivulets eloquently portrayed; this is among the highlights on this disc. The brief Minuet in C sharp minor is a little interlude between two better-known pieces and is enlightening in portraying a courtly dance through a few phrases rising to a peak and a delicate close. In Miroirs, Marshev brings out all the splendours of Ravel’s masterpiece. The darkness of midnight mysteries emerges in Marshev’s portrayal in Noctuelles, with the substantial chordal phrases excitingly executed. In Oiseaux tristes, the idiom of sorrow is expressed superbly particularly in the solemn cadenza, while in the lengthiest piece, Une barque sur l’océan, the Russian brings out all the clarity of Ravel’s arpeggiated segment in its sweeping melodies expressing the flow of the sea. In Alborada del gracioso, Ravel reprised his love of Spanish folk lore presented in intricate melodies, and in the La vallée des cloches, Marshev invokes the chiming of bells in sonorous harmonies, not without echoes of Rachmaninov. The final item on this disc is an arrangement of a fugue which Ravel prepared to be entered in the Prix de Rome, here in a version written by Marshev for two hands. The booklet contains a comprehensive essay by Peter Quantrill and a biography of the pianist in English. For any readers who have already bought Marshev’s discs, this new CD will be an obligatory purchase but it is also strongly recommended to anyone unfamiliar with this outstanding pianist.

Gregor Tassie