Friday, August 15, 2014

Ravel: Sonatine (Casadesus)

The greatest interpreter of the piano music of Ravel, for my money, was Robert Casadesus. He had met the composer in 1923, after giving a performance of Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit, and, according to his wife Gaby (also a fine musician with whom he often partnered in piano duo repertory), "had the pleasure to be congratulated by the composer for his interpretation, for his performance of Le Gibet in the slow and nostalgic manner which Ravel had intended, all the time emphasizing the harmonic relationships." It is this sensitivity to the harmonic relationships in Ravel's music that gives Casadesus' performances their unique power. Take, for instance, a work like Le Tombeau de Couperin - Ravel's tribute both to the Baroque dance suite and to fallen friends in World War I, its surface placidity concealing deep grief, which Casadesus is able to draw out fully but, paradoxically, without calling our attention to it.

Casadesus' fame as a Ravel interpreter rests on his 1951 Columbia recordings of the complete solo piano music, but his earlier recordings of the composer have not received such wide circulation.  His very first session in the USA, in 1940 (although he had been a Columbia artist for many years, all his recordings prior to this were made in France), was entirely devoted to Ravel:

Ravel: Sonatine and
Menuet from "Le Tombeau de Couperin"
Robert Casadesus, piano
Recorded February 23, 1940
Columbia Masterworks set X-179, two 10-inch 78-rpm records
Link (FLAC files, 27.94 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 19.90 MB)


  1. Thanks, Bryan - very interested to hear this.

  2. Very good music! And great piano playing. Thanks, Bryan!

  3. There were some piano rolls issued as played by Ravel that were actually done by Casadesus under the composer's supervision. (Ravel played the less technically demanding pieces himself.) I'd say that gives Casadesus a certain authority when it comes to interpreting Ravel.

    1. Did Ravel actually play or conduct ANYTHING that has been attrib=
      uted to him? Or was it all "supervision" of others?