Muraro’s triumphant technique falls short of enrapture
Théâtre des Champs-Elysées
Maurice Ravel: Complete works for solo piano
Roger Muraro (piano)
On the heels of the release of his latest album, a recording of Maurice Ravel’s complete works for solo piano, Roger Muraro takes to the concert stage to perform an all-Ravel program. Though better known for his interpretation of Olivier Messiaen -- he studied under Messiaen’s wife, Yvonne Loriod-Messiaen -- Muraro proves himself adept in the technical breadth of Ravel’s piano repertoire, much of which also exists in orchestral versions.
For his 1 December recital at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Muraro eased into the performance with Pavane pour une infante défunte, Ravel’s nod to Fauré, and crescendoed to a stunning rendering of Gaspard de la nuit just before the intermission. With Le Tombeau de Couperin, Muraro lent his Steinway a steely tone, recalling Couperin’s harpsichord aesthetic of the late 17th century. Throughout the first half, Muraro engaged an effective dynamic range, capturing the layered technical expression that characterizes Ravel’s pasticci.
In the second half, Muraro touched the warmth of Une barque sur l’océan, a glimmer of lightness that eclipsed the sometimes dry exaction apparent elsewhere in the program. Muraro also succeeded in engaging the playful, occasionally sinister aspects of Valses nobles et sentimentales. For his final number, Muraro performed his own transcription of Ravel’s ballet and orchestral La Valse, a piece that he has been playing since 1988. In his interpretation, Muraro allowed himself what he called in his album liner notes «une touche de réalisation toute personnelle», finishing in a dramatic flourish that left both performer and audience breathless.
Though it perhaps contributes to his impressively consistent technical grasp, Muraro’s cerebral approach to Ravel’s forms also created moments of disconnect between his interpretation and the sensuality of the music. The result was a not-quite-sterile, but somehow one-dimensional reading of pieces such as the Menuet antique, written when Ravel was only 20, and the neoclassical Sonatine, which Muraro played with too percussive a touch.
With his lean frame shroud in a loose-fitting, graphite silk jacket, Muraro occasionally hummed along to the music with expressive facial gestures, which, though at times distracting, signaled a composure that trumped the audience’s excruciatingly ill-timed throat-clearing and excessive rustling during the brief pauses between pieces.
Yet after almost three hours of music, the hearty “bravos” from a nearly full house of roughly 1800 recital-goers pointed towards the audience’s willingness to embrace Muraro in his ongoing relationship with a compatriot composer. We have much to look forward to, assuming that Muraro continues to explore and expand his emotional rapport with Ravel’s works as well as use his technical mastery to capitalize on the expressive realms therein.