RAVEL REVEALEDComplete Works for Solo Piano
GWENDOLYN MOK, piano
[2CD] Performed On An Erard Grand Piano (c.1875)
A letter from a fan to XM Satellite Radio:
I have been a seasoned FM classical music listener since childhood in the late 1950's, but in recent years have been outside the broadcast range of the nearest station in San Francisco. I recently subscribed to XM and now listen nearly exclusively to your channel 110 (also, public radio each evening). I know how difficult it is to satisfy an audience of listeners with generally eclectic tastes. Your programming range of works and performers is excellent.
I would like to bring some very special recordings to your attention. I have a particular passion for the Ravel solo piano works, and over the years have "worn out" LPs of performances by Walter Gieseking and my personal benchmark for these works, Robert Casadesus (a student of Ravel). I also own CDs of the complete Ravel piano works by other artists including Perlmuter, another student of Ravel. A couple of years ago, my understanding and appreciation of Ravel piano music was transformed by a remarkable artist, Ms. Gwendolyn Mok. I first heard Ms. Mok at the Mendocino Music Festival where she performed Jeux d'eau and other pieces on a Steinway in a modest size recital hall. Ms. Mok's technical capability is on the highest level, necessary to faithfully render these works. As you may be aware, Ravel was extremely detailed and explicit in his scores for performance dynamics, phrasing, etc. and Ms. Mok is quite sensitive to these directives. I also noted that she was in total command and respect of the dynamics of the Steinway, and very careful not to "overplay" the instrument or hall. I've heard several talented pianists play this same instrument in this hall, and many have succumbed to the temptation to blow away the audience.
The real revelation came in the following weeks when I was able to play Ms. Mok's CD recordings of the complete Ravel works. I don't know the details of her academic training, but it is clear that she has devoted considerable effort not only to the study of Ravel's music, but also to researching period instruments of Ravel's era, in particular the type of Erard piano that Ravel played. These instruments are characterized by their responsive action, considerable dynamic range, generally more rapid decay of individual notes, and a complex multiple-register variation in tonality, all of which calls on the performer to be sensitive to these qualities. Each sequence of notes is crisp and distinct no matter how rapid they are played, yet the fluidity of texture (in any given passage calling for such) need not be compromised. She recorded the Ravel on one such Erard piano, an impecably restored instrument, which in combination with her interpretive skills and technical excellence, provides us with a window into the beauty of Ravel creativity that is unique in today's music world. In addition, you probably know how difficult it is to record piano; the technical recording quality of this CD is the very best I have ever heard.
Please consider playing the Mok performances from time to time. I think you and your listeners will agree that they represent a quantum leap in our understanding and appreciation of Ravel's work. I should also emphasize that I am only a fan of Ms. Mok and have no commercial interest in or ties to her career.
PROGRAM NOTESPianist Gwendolyn Mok, who specializes in the music of Maurice Ravel, has recorded the complete solo works on a restored Erard concert grand dating from 1875, similar to the piano the composer owned. There are no other existing recordings today of Ravel's complete piano works on an Erard. This 2CD set offers the discerning listener an opportunity to hear Ravel's music as he heard it.