Better known for his recordings of Beethoven and much other German Romantic piano music, Stefan Vladar explores the keyboard works of Maurice Ravel on this 2015 release from Capriccio, making a change to French repertoire that couldn't be anticipated from his discography. Ravel's keyboard music is often described as lucid, atmospheric, and elegant, and Vladar's approach to playing it adequately reflects those descriptions, although a seriousness and intellectual rigor come from his absorption of the classics. In this sense, Vladar treats Ravel as a careful craftsman whose luminous harmonies and balanced textures owe something to the refined classicism of Mozart and Chopin. While the wildly virtuosic "Gaspard de la nuit" is in a class by itself, with its dark depictions of the haunted poems of Aloysius Bertrand, the sparkling "Jeux d'eau" and the translucent "Sonatine" have a clarity of form and expression that Vladar respects in his controlled articulation and phrasing. The popular "Pavane pour une infante défunte" is also played with restraint and calmness, while the two pastiches, "À la manière de - Alexandre Borodine" and "À la manière de - Emmanuel Chabrier," exude the languid charm of the Viennese waltz, undoubtedly found in the air of the recording venue, Schloß Walpersdorf, Austria.
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