Alice Ader’s first Debussy disc (Erato) won all the awards in the specialist press on its release twenty years ago and is still regarded as an unequalled benchmark. Now this unconventional pianist at last unveils her recording of the complete Ravel piano works. And what better moment could there be than Debussy Year to present these two hours or so of music in dialogue, en Miroirs as it were, with the œuvre of ‘Claude de France’? Ravel, the hot-blooded Swiss watchmaker, the discreet Lisztian, the mediocre pianist who made such extreme demands on his colleagues, the man of so many sublime paradoxes, deserves only the finest interpreters: those who take the time to explore his deepest recesses. Alice Ader, light-years away from the flashy gestures often encountered in this music, takes us to the very heart of one of the most secretive composers of his time.
Another Vingt regards from an unexpected source, and this time no mere stopgap. Alice Ader's interpretation has clearly been prepared with devotion and insight, and the recordings (made in the studios of Radio France over nine days) reflect similar dedication on the part of the Adda team. The resulting blend of clarity and warmth, with the piano in an excellent perspective, is greatly superior to Continuum's clear but noisy recording for Malcolm Troup; and Alice Ader's playing is on an altogether higher level than Troup's. If in the final analysis this is only one of the finest Vingt regards on record, that's mainly because Alice Ader does not have quite the power and panache to make the most tumultuous climaxes `vibrate'—the great shout of joy at the height of No. 10 is a case in point. But her finesse and agility are still to be treasured; if and when more towering versions appear (or are reissued) hers should still have a place of honour.
Pianist Bruce Levingston is artistic director for a New York organization that commissions new music and one of the works commissioned by that group was Philip Glass' A Musical Portrait of Chuck Close, given its world-premiere recording on this album. Levingston suggested the idea to Glass of a musical tribute to the painter after viewing Close's painting of Glass. The piece is in two movements, the first of which is full of alternations – between major and minor, between meters, between a rocking figure and running scales – that give it an overall chiaroscuro effect.