RAVEL, PROKOFIEV / Argerich, Pletnev

Ma Mère l'Oye
(for piano four hands)

Ballet Suite arr. for 2 pianos
Martha Argerich
Mikhail Pletnev
Int. Release 30 Jul. 2004
0289 474 8172 0

Track List

Sergei Prokofiev (1891 - 1953)
Cinderella, Op.87

Suite from the Ballet: Transcribed for 2 Pianos by Mikhail Pletnev



Maurice Ravel (1875 - 1937)
Ma mère l'Oye, M. 60

For Piano Duet


Martha Argerich, Mikhail Pletnev

Total Playing Time 49:38

Two outrageously talented pianists are brought together on this disc . . . It is as one would expect of Pletnev, a miracle of subtle textures and extraordinary delicacy: consummate virtuosity deployed for expressive purposes, using two keyboards to maximise the palette of timbres available to him. The playing of theses two unique artists is similarly breathtaking, whether in the sweep of "Cinderella's Waltz", the crisply articulated rhythms of the Gavotte, or the hilariously runaway Gallop. For Ravel's "Mother Goose" suite they play on a single piano; the textural range from the tinkling lightness of "Empress of the Pagodas" to the veiled enchantment of the "Fairy Garden" has to be heard to be believed.

. . . both are pianists of phenomenal touch and technique who are willing to take extreme interpretative risks and trust in their own musical instincts. Predictably their playing together constantly strikes sparks, as if one pianist is trying to be more outrageous than the other, but all their performances have real musical elegance and charm as well as virtuosity, and Ravel's Mother Gosse is sheer delight from the first bar to the last.

. . . the extra sonority of two pianos and four hands brings a quasi-orchestral palette to the sound world, especially in the nimble fingers of such astounding keyboad "colourists". This is truly wonderful playing, warm-hearted and romantic in Cinderella's famous waltz sequence at the ball, yet captures to perfection the pawky humour of the quarrel sequence, the gavotte and the galop. Ravel's Five Nursery Songs from Mother Goose sounds freshly minted in these dazzling performances, nowhere more so than in the clangorous chinoiserie of the Empress of the Pagodas. One of the year's outstanding piano discs, no doubt.

. . . two of the world's greatest pianists together . . .

Pletnev's arrangement of "Cinderella" is brilliant . . . Pletnev, despite his glum demeanour, is an artist of great humour, and Argerich is as fiery as always. And what a wonderful partnership they make . . . a qualified triumph.

. . . stunning disc. . . . they are so electrifyingly harmonious in expressive purpose. . . . Pletnev has the knack of finding just the right tonal shadings to summon up character. There is graphic scene-painting and a real sense of the lithe, sensuous choreography underlying the music. Seated at one keyboard, Argerich and Pletnev are just as magical in the five pieces from Ravel's Mother Goose. This is an outstanding disc that no lover of pianism at its most imaginative will want to be without.

What I admire most . . . is the faithfulness of Pletnev's treatment . . . The ensemble work is impeccable, ranking with collaborative duos that have spent a lifetime working together . . . The sound of this disc is wonderful . . . My only regret is that 50 minutes seems to short.

Martha Argerich und Mikhail Pletnev ergänzen sich ideal, denn hier verschmelzen harmonisch Emotion und Intellekt . . . Duospiel von Rang.

Das Ganze ist ein wahres Fest raffiniertester, glanzvoll-virtuoser Pianistik, wobei Pletnev sich als Arrangeur von profundem Können erweist. Der Klaviersatz zeichnet sich durch ungewöhnliche Transparenz aus: Man hört schlicht alles -- was natürlich auch dem subtilen, genauestens ausgehörten Spiel der beiden Interpreten zu verdanken ist. Die Freude zweier Tastenstars an ihrem Aufeinander-Eingehen, am blitzartigen Reagieren des Partners springt geradezu aus den Lautsprechern. Nicht minder fein in puncto Klangsensibilität geriet der Ravel. Ein . . . Hochgenuss.

Selten hat ein Arrangeur eine zarte, im nächsten Moment schmerzliche, dann schon wieder turbulente Musik so schlank, so einfühlsam für die Bewegung der stummen, gleichwohl sprechend-singenden Körper auf zwei Tasteninstrumente übertragen. Pletnev hat diese klavieristische Balletteinfühlung für Martha Argerich verfaßt, mit der er ein schier ungeheuer farbiges, dabei diszipliniertes Spiel entfaltet . . . Hier nun scheint die stürmische, unberechenbare Argerich von Pletnevs Korrektheit angesteckt zu sein, ohne den verschiedenen expressiven Anforderungen auch nur eine Sekunde lang auszuweichen . . . In summa also eine der wichtigsten, berührendsten Klavierplatten der letzten Jahre ¿ und dies auf klangtechnisch höchstem Niveau.

Un enregistrement que l'on attend avec impatience.

Un enregistrement que l'on attend avec impatience . . .

Unidos por la música del autor soviético, el técnico Pletnev y la ensoñadora Argerich logran una fusión perfecta y complementaria, percibiéndose las aportaciones de ella en los números de impronta mágica . . . La versión para piano a cuatro manos del ballet Ma mére l'Oye de Ravel es el perfecto colofón a este disco de cuentos de hadas. La indescriptible ternura de "La bella durmiente"; la preciosista descripción del bosque donde se pierde Pulgarcíto . . . o los diálogos, en forma de vals sereno, de la Bella y la Bestia, constituyen auténticos logros interpretativos por parte de Pletnev y Argerich, consiguiendo conservar la amplia gama de matices de la partitura original para orquesta.

Argerich y Pletnev, un dúo de lujo para este magnífico disco de Prokofíev. ... La interpretación llega como una ola de enorme fuerza expresiva, plena de brillantez y con una poderosa consistencia rítmica y tímbrica, como en el apabullante Finale. ... No hay muchas y buenas grabaciones de estas piezas a cuatro manos, y esta es una de ellas, probablemente la mejor.

No sorprende que Martha Argerich y Mijail Pletnev tengan que convertirse a veces en orquesta, y en pocos momentos se advierte mejor que en ese triunfal Finale rico en esa cosa tan rusa que son las campanas, que suenan hasta el estallido. Se trata, pues, de un conjunto virtuoso para cuatro manos y dos pianos de incisiva musicalidad, con mucho sentido de la danza y del humor. Y del teatro. ... Argerich, y Pletnev están desbordantes de eso, con una claridad de ideas y una secuencia de delicadeza y sugerencia que terminan, por convertir este CD en un exquisito recita a cuatro manos. Pero si antes contaban el largo y emocionante cuento de Cenicienta con despliegue de medios, ahora se diría que son niños que se susurran los relatos ellos mismos, temerosos e ingenuos. Dos planteamientos, dos mundos. ¡Que pareja, Martha y Mijail!
Pas de deux for two pianos
Mikhail Pletnev's transcription of Prokofiev's Cinderella Suite

It is now almost 60 years since Prokofiev's three-act ballet Cinderella was first performed at Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre. Rostislav Zakharov's choreography was closely based on Nikolay Volkov's skilful scenario, which for its part, included all the episodes of the fairytale and naturally accommodated all the dancers' needs. Given a score so uncommonly full of life and, in its lyrical passages, so irresistibly charming, the success of the production was never in doubt. And although Cinderella has always been overshadowed by Prokofiev's other great ballet, Romeo and Juliet, and even more so by Tchaikovsky's three masterpieces for the dance, that situation may yet change when the connoisseurs hear Mikhail Pletnev's masterly and keenly self-assured transcription of the ballet suite, especially in a genuinely historic recording by two of the greatest pianists of our day.

If Prokofiev's ballet explores potential of dance, the present arrangement transfers that potential to the imaginary stage of two pianos. In doing so it affords the most intimate insights into the mechanics and psychology of a fairytale score that is essentially an appeal - understated and rebellious by turns - on behalf of the oppressed and underprivileged. And ultimately it confirms our hope that justice may finally triumph, even if that is no longer so easy to believe in our everyday world.

The present transcription for two pianos is not the first time that Mikhail Pletnev has tried his hand as an arranger and thought through the work in question to its pianistic conclusion. Around the time that he triumphed at the 1978 Moscow Tchaikovsky Competition, the young Pletnev was already inspiring his audiences with his love of transcriptions. At that date he was attracted above all by episodes from two other ballets, Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker and Rodion Shchedrin's Anna Karenina. If he has now turned Cinderella into a pianistic pas de deux, he has a reference point in the composer's own piano arrangements of the score. Prokofiev's adaptations take the form of three relatively large-scale suites for piano solo, opp. 95, 97 and 102, all of which make the work's most memorable numbers available for concert use. These miniatures are notable for their impulsive rhythms, sensuous melodies and - in the case of the famous gavotte - their sensitive handling of historical forms. This gavotte, which Sviatoslav Richter performed during his earliest appearances in the West, is also a part of Pletnev's version of the score. In terms of piano technique, his transcriptions are always extremely lean-textured and transparent, and the present gavotte is no exception, with the listener inevitably impressed by the arranger's unerring view of the pieces's essentials and its imagery. Even the notes on the printed page suggest Prokofiev's original piano scores. In the accompanying figures we recognize those elements that are necessary to create a sense of atmosphere. The feeling of intoxication and frenzy is achieved by compressing and condensing the content, rather than by means of grandiose figurations and dense chordal textures.

Pletnev's decision to entrust the art of dance to the care of two pairs of hands is an experiment in which every passage reflects the seriousness of purpose that is entirely typical of a thoughtful artist aware of his potential for virtuoso outbursts and able to curb that potential. Of course, Pletnev could have used - and misused - Prokofiev's music to inflict endlessly ascending and descending broken triads on his own fingers and the incomparably dextrous ones of his partner Martha Argerich, for whom he wrote the work and to whom it is dedicated. We lovers of piano playing would not have taken it amiss had he done so. But Pletnev proves himself once again the interdenominational high priest of (self-)control or, if one prefers it, of proud submission. In preparing his version of the ballet suite, he has retraced the sinewy lines of the plot and explored the lyricism and drama. And he has divided the corresponding themes, impulses and colours between two keyboards as though there could have been no other way of delegating the choreography of so wondrous a work to four hands. If we close our eyes and, placing our confidence in Pletnev and the suggestive sonorities of the two pianos, we shall not find it difficult to feel Cinderella's bashfulness, her stepmother's wickedness, the bustle of life at court, the excitements of her dancing lesson and the delightful apotheosis as the lovers are united, all of it evoked with the tangible physicality of the ballet as danced on stage.

The recording session, which lasted until the early hours of the morning, was characterized by an exceptionally creative atmosphere and a productive artistic tension between the two pianists. This is reflected even in Pletnev's realization of the sound of tolling bells that marks the climax of the work. Here he literally leapt up from his piano stool and struck the palm of his hand against the strings of the instrument while continuing to play the keyboard with his other hand, all this accompanied by Argerich's dark and mysterious chords.

Like Prokofiev, the French composer Maurice Ravel also prepared transcriptions of a number of his works. But whereas his Russian colleague arranged orchestral works for the piano, Ravel orchestrated his piano pieces. In the case of Ma Mère l'Oye - a magical children's story recalling the fairytale subjects of Schumann and Debussy - Ravel must have been thinking of an orchestral version for use as a ballet even while he was writing the piece for piano. The subtitle of the piano suite, "Cinq pièces enfantines", should not mislead us: the "Mother Goose" of the title figures as the narrator and inventor of the brief stories whose poetry conjures up the imperishable yet irretrievable world of childhood.