"Ravel was the ultimate filmmaker, storyteller and painter," says pianist Stewart Goodyear, whose new all-Ravel album is due out May 5 on Orchid Classics.
The comparison to visual artists may seem strange, but Goodyear tells us he finds Ravel's music quite graphic. "His pianism conjures up pictures of splashing water where you can hear the bubbles and foam; scratching on walls where you can hear the nails and harsh laughter that are devastating in their impact," he explains. "Then there are the moments of extreme tenderness, accompanied by harp-like, or guitar-like, strums that are made all the more moving because of their simplicity and understatement."
For his album, Goodyear has chosen the works that first drew him to Ravel, most of them composed before his fame extended outside France. "The young Ravel was seen as an avant-garde composer with a disregard for conservative rules, writing pieces that blew the listeners away with their novelty — they had no choice but to catch up," he reflects.
He includes the evocative Jeux d'eau, composed when Ravel was still a student, and the popular suite Miroirs, whose daring harmonic language shocked Ravel's contemporaries. Goodyear also tackles Gaspard de la nuit, known as one of the most demanding works in the piano repertoire. "Once the technical difficulties are conquered, the pianist can finally concentrate on what each movement is saying," he notes. "Only then can the pianist find the key to a convincing performance of this work."
Regarding the diminutively titled Sonatine, Goodyear cautions: "The work itself is not easy, nor is it a trifle. It is as deep as an ocean, and just as deceptively simple."
With Ravel, Goodyear makes his debut on the Orchid Classics label, and follows up his astonishing 2015 Tchaikovsky release that was nominated for a Juno Award earlier this year. But why Ravel? Why now?
"The timing just felt right and I went for it. Ravel was a composer I programmed many times in recital when my career was starting, and, ever since, there is an immense joy I feel every time I perform his music. Ravel's sound world is too intoxicating not to devote the entire album to it!"
Goodyear's Ravel will be released on May 5. You can pre-order it here.
Watch the promotional video for the album below: