Claude Debussy, Francis Poulenc, Maurice Ravel, Camille Saint-Saƫns

Michael Baron and Priscila Navarro



"The last time I encountered Saint-Saëns’s two-piano arrangement of his Dance macabre, it was performed by Ludmila Berlinskaya and Arthur Ancelle... But this new one, slower but with no less impetus, is placed in a different tradition. Perhaps as a result, it’s even more appealing: more effective in catching the music’s waltz swing, more effective in aerating its textures, more effective in conveying its essential irony—all in all, more in tune with its fundamental character... That ability to light on the music’s fundamental character marks the recital as a whole... fine pastels of the closing movement of Ma mère l’oye, Baron and Navarro assure that the lines between these pieces remain sharp—and the result is a bright recital that could have easily turned pale. Technically, the performances are above reproach—rapid passagework is clean, contrapuntal lines are lucid, and coordination is first-rate. I look forward to more from this team."
Peter J. Rabinowitz, Fanfare [July/August 2022]
"Baron and Navarro demonstrate...their poised facility in Saint-Saëns’s demand for scales in contrary motion, syncopations, presto octaves, staccato flourishes, and the strictures of the Variation 9 Fugue."
Gary Lemco, Fanfare [July/August 2022]
"the very skilled and compelling Baron-Navarro Piano Duo is another example of how the multifaceted skills of chamber musicians set these players (and these duet works) if not above, then at least apart from solo work. In duo performances and recordings there is an extra element—the inner workings of the partnership itself, the unspoken communication and the intention behind the created duo sound. How do two musicians work together so seamlessly that their sound becomes something entirely new? As I listened to the Baron-Navarro Duo I constantly caught myself marveling not only at how the duo sounded like one instrument, but how the multi-dimensional quality of that sound almost created an audible texture. (I had a bit of a synesthetic moment, actually, imagining something tactile and visual while listening to the album.)... Baron and Navarro must be listening because their work is so articulate and precise. As to how they listen to each other (while handling their own parts) I have no idea, but I do know that it is all I want to hear. I’m very excited to see what’s next and to listen for the harmony in their next collaboration."
Jacqueline Kharouf, Fanfare [July/August 2022]
"I enjoy French music for two pianists, whether at one or two pianos. Both idioms are included in this great recital which includes both well-known, often recorded pieces and some rare ones as well. All arrangements for two pianos were done by the respective composers. [The Baron-Navarro duo] are a formidable team. This is a demanding program and both their technical and ensemble work are superb... This disc has both good recorded piano sound and an interesting booklet essay. Outside of the Ravel, a number of selections are not heard in these versions very often. That makes for an essential recording for lovers of French music for piano duo."
James Harrington, Fanfare [July/August 2022]
"The first point to make about this collection of French duo-piano works is that all the arrangements are by the composers. The next point is simply to state that this is a delightful disc... To bring off a program of this nature, in addition to a light touch the performers need wit and grace. There is plenty of that on display here... This disc was a delightful discovery. Nothing is played without a sense of real commitment from the duo. Such a program could wear out its welcome if the performers failed to provide enough variety of color and touch to keep our interest. The Baron and Navarro Duo does that elegantly, and MSR’s natural recorded sound is an added plus. The recording is distant enough to avoid any sound of the mechanism of the pianos, but still close enough for clarity."
Henry Fogel, Fanfare [July/August 2022]
"Poulenc’s duo arrangement of his D minor two-piano concerto
is a work of dialogue, and Baron and Navarro handle that element in just the right way, tossing material back and forth, cooperating in unison passages, and generally showcasing the overall charm and rhythmic liveliness of the piece... Pleasantries abound throughout this disc."
Mark J. Estren, InfoDad [June 2022]
"Baron & Navarro Piano Duo certainly captures the power and excitement of a full orchestra during the final two minutes of the Danse Macabre, as well as convey the exotic atmosphere of a mysterious, hazy summer afternoon in the Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune. Poulenc's quirky eccentricities also come across well here... They also bring to life the vivid imagery of pagodas and fairy tales within the Ma mère l'oye suite by Ravel."
Jean-Yves Duperron, Classical Music Sentinal [May 2022]
"[This performance of Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite] is notable for the precision of dynamics, especially when those beautiful melodic lines are passed between pianists either building or declining volume. One follows the other perfectly. This disc has both good recorded piano sound and an interesting booklet essay. Outside of the Ravel, a number of selections are not heard in these versions very often. That makes for an essential recording for lovers of French music for piano duo."
Harrington, American Record Guide [May/June 2022]
"Priscila Navarro is a phenomenal talent. Together with her duo-piano partner in these recordings, Michael Baron, they get to the essence of what is so intriguing about the music of four French composers. And it isn’t any pixie-dust about some vague “French mystique,” either. This is music of real substance, and the duo-piano medium, with the pianists seated at separate pianos that are usually positioned so that they face one another in a way that facilitates the vital communication between artists, also helps them to realize the symphonic quality that is a feature of so much duo-piano music... The present performance by Baron and Navarro brings out the vibrant tone colors and moods in Debussy’s music to say nothing of its quivering sensuality, more satisfactorily, to my mind, than either the symphonic or solo piano versions we are used to hearing."
Phil Music, Atlanta Audio Club [March 2022]
From at least the time of Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig Johann Krebs, Giovanni Pergolesi and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, works for multiple keyboards have attracted composers, performers and audiences – no more than in the 19th century when Franz Liszt and others brought immense attention to ensemble playing. The early 20th century saw the popularity of two-piano teams expand in Europe and America. Radio and recordings abetted the rise of audiences eager to hear the duos Appleton & Field, Bartlett & Robertson, Ferrante & Teicher, Gold & Fizdale, Labeque sisters, Luboshutz & Nemenoff, Pierce & Jonas, Vronsky & Babin and Whittemore & Lowe – prominent among the many. Each ensemble’s tours featured works such as the ones presented here.

The Baron & Navarro Piano Duo performs a wide range of music for Two Pianos and Piano–Four-Hands with electric energy and melting lyricism to critical acclaim. Formed in 2013, they have been praised for their technical brilliance and innovative programming.

An award-winning concert pianist, Michael Baron performs more than 40 concerts a year, including annual tours of Europe and South America and engagements throughout the United States and Asia. Equally at home as a recitalist, a chamber musician and a soloist with orchestra, Baron commands a diverse repertoire, ranging from Baroque compositions to world premieres of contemporary pieces. A Steinway Artist, his virtuosity and musicianship regularly garner the highest critical acclaim. Also a distinguished educator, he has presented master classes and workshops at schools, festivals and universities throughout the world and regularly serves as a jurist at regional, national and international piano competitions. He studied with Earl Wild, Orazio Frugoni, Howard Karp, and Renato Premezzi. Baron received his doctorate in piano performance from The Ohio State University. He serves as the Myra and Van Williams Distinguished Professor of Music and Head of Keyboard Studies at the Bower School of Music at Florida Gulf Coast University. He is also Honorary Professor of Music at Yantai University and Hubei University in the People’s Republic of China.

Peruvian-born pianist Priscila Navarro is the first prize winner of several  competitions, including the Liszt-Garritson International Competition in Maryland, Beethoven Sonata Competition in Tennessee, Chopin International Competition of Texas, Artist Series of Florida and the Imola City Awards in Italy. Navarro received a Special Prize for her performance of music by J.S. Bach at the International City of Vigo Competition in Spain, where she was a finalist out of 400 participants, with a jury presided over by Martha Argerich. As a chamber musician, she regularly performs with a variety of musicians. Navarro, who began music studies at age 9 at the National Conservatory of Peru, earned her DMA in piano performance and pedagogy at the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami, where she also completed Masters and Artist Diploma degrees. She graduated from Florida GulfCoast University, studying under Michael Baron. Navarro is a passionate  pedagogue, being a jury member at numerous international competitions, including the Chopin International Competition for Latin American pianists and the Heida Hermann International Competition. She is currently the artistic director of the First Parnassus of the International Competition Music.
Adapted for two pianos by the composer
CLAUDE DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Adapted for two pianos by Maurice Ravel
Adapted for two pianos by the composer
I.          Allegro ma non troppo
II.          Larghetto
III.         Allegro molto
MAURICE RAVEL (1875-1937)
Adapted for two pianos by the composer
I.          Pavane de la Belle au bois dormant
II.          Petit Poucet: Très modéré
III.         Laideronnette, impératrice des pagodes
IV.        Les entretiens de la Belle et de la Bête
V.         Le jardin féerique

Recorded 20-22 August 2021 in the Tobe Recital Hall, Florida Gulf Coast University, Fort Myers, Florida. A Candlewood Digital Natural Presence Recording: Produced, engineered, edited and mastered by Richard Price. Steinway D pianos; Piano technician: Prospero Rodriguez.

MSR Classics