French classical pianist David Fray plays Maurice Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G major. Orchestre de Paris conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen. Recorded live at the Salle Pleyel, Paris on 8 March 2011. This HD video is published by the EuroArts channel.
Heavily influenced by jazz, this piano concerto is written by the French composer in between 1929 and 1931. It is in three movements:
- Allegramente The first movement opens with a single whip-crack, and what follows can be described as a blend of the Basque and Spanish sounds of Ravel’s youth and the newer jazz styles he had become so fond of. Like many other concerti, the opening movement is written in the standard sonata-allegro form, but with considerably more emphasis placed on the exposition. At 106 bars in length, the large exposition section contains most of the musical ideas presented in the first movement. After the opening whip-crack and snare drum roll, the piano is introduced, providing a methodical accompanying figure as the winds present the first subject. Soon, the piano stops and the orchestra roars to life with each section adding to the theme, eventually drifting into an eerie, dream-like statement from the piano. This soliloquy is short-lived as the orchestra reenters with a blues-influenced figure, shifting between major and minor modes. The second subject begins with an awkward dissonance (A♯ and B), but quickly establishes itself as a richly melodic section, reminiscent of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.Following a quick chordal passage from the piano, the development begins, utilizing much of the material from the first subject. After progressing through a variety of modes, the music comes to a mystic section played by the harps and strings. Following a short rest, the section continues, but is quickly interrupted by a restatement of the “blues section” from the first subject.
An abridged version of the first subject begins the recapitulation, after which a piano cadenza restates the second theme. Through this elaborate restatement, the movement progresses to an energetic coda and ends with a bawdy scale from the brass.
- Adagio assai In stark contrast to the preceding movement, the second movement is a tranquil subject of Mozartian serenity written in ternary form. When Long praised the natural flow of the lengthy, seemingly effortless opening melody, Ravel responded: “That flowing phrase! How I worked over it bar by bar! It nearly killed me!”The first theme is presented solely by the piano, the right hand playing the melody in triple meter (3/4) while the left hand gives a waltz accompaniment (this left-hand waltz accompaniment continues throughout the second movement). After nearly three minutes, a C♯ by solo flute breaks the spell, whereupon oboe, clarinet and flute carry the melody into the second theme.This second theme is tenser than the first, utilizing dissonant harmonies and figures from the piano. Almost as easily as the theme appears, it fades away into a restatement of the first theme, this time played by the cor anglais while accompanied by rustling ornamentations of the piano. A brief coda brings the movement to a gentle close on a pianissimo trill between B and C♯.
- Presto The piano introduces the first subject, a rapid chordal figure, with dissonant interjections from the winds and brass. The subject continues with such interjections from all, and progresses through a multitude of modes before finally coming to its conclusion. Here, the movement ends with the same four chords with which it began.Possibly due to its short length, the third movement is often repeated by the orchestra and soloist as an “encore” after the concerto.
David Fray (born May 24, 1981) is a French classical pianist. Voted “Newcomer of the Year 2008” by the BBC Music Magazine, Fray has gained attention for his musical interpretation as well as his eccentricities in performance and rehearsal, which were highlighted in the 2008 ARTE documentary about him titled Swing, Sing and Think.
David Fray started taking piano lessons at the age of four. He furthered his studies with Jacques Rouvier at the National Superior Conservatory of Music in Paris where he currently resides.
He has collaborated with leading orchestras and distinguished conductors such as Marin Alsop, Pierre Boulez, Semyon Bychkov, Christoph Eschenbach, Asher Fisch, Daniele Gatti, Paavo Järvi, Kurt Masur, Riccardo Muti, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Jaap van Zweden among others. Orchestral highlights in Europe have included performances with the London Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw, Bayerische Rundfunk, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, Deutsche Sinfonie Orchester, Salzburg Mozarteum, Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala, Orchestre de Paris, Orchestre National de France and Orchestre de l’Opéra national de Paris. David Fray made his US debut in 2009 with the Cleveland Orchestra which was followed by performances with the Boston Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Recital debuts followed in Carnegie Hall, at the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York and the Chicago Symphony Hall.
He holds multiple awards including the prestigious German Echo Klassik Prize for Instrumentalist of the Year and the Young Talent Award from the Ruhr Piano Festival. In 2008 he was named Newcomer of the Year by the BBC Music Magazine. At the 2004 Montreal International Music Competition, Fray received both the Second Grand Prize and the Prize for the best interpretation of a Canadian work.
An exclusive Warner Classics artist, David Fray recorded his first CD with works of Bach and Boulez to great critical acclaim. The disc was praised as the “best record of the year” by the London Times and Le Soir. Fray’s second release was a recording of Bach keyboard concerti with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen awarded by the German Recording Academy followed by Schubert’s Moments Musicaux and Impromptus. Fray’s most recent releases include a Schubert recital, Mozart piano concerti with the Philharmonia Orchestra and Jaap van Zweden and Bach Partitas Nos. 2 and 6 along with Toccata in C minor. In 2008 the TV network ARTE +7 presented a documentary on David Fray directed by the renowned French director Bruno Monsaingeon. The film “David Fray records Johann Sebastian Bach” was subsequently released on DVD.